Art World Mourns as Minimalist Maestro Frank Stella Passes at 87

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In the early hours of May 5th, 2024, the Manhattan home of artist Frank Stella grew dark and silent as he breathed his last breath. Despite the quiet, all across the city of New York—and indeed, undoubtedly the world—his legacy resonated like the tolling of a great bell. Frank Stella, a luminary in the realms of painting, sculpting, and printmaking, had died. He had lived 87 storied years, his life punctuated by landmark works that marked the pulse of the minimalist and post-painterly abstraction art movements.

The news first came to the public through Jeffrey Deitch, a gallery owner with close ties to the Stella family. Upon speaking with Harriet McGurk, Stella’s wife, Deitch confirmed the poignant news to the world—the master artist had succumbed to lymphoma. And with the breaking of this news, the world seemed to sigh, mourning the loss of such a remarkable creator.

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Frank Stella was a child of Malden, Massachusetts, born in the spring of 1936. After his youth, he pursued higher education at Princeton University, an experience that broadened his scope and understanding of the world, propeling him to the frenzied heart of New York City in the late 1950s. There, amidst the towering concrete and ceaseless energy, he began a revolution in his artistic expression.

While the American art world was awash with the bold swathes and dramatic tones of abstract expressionism, Stella turned his gaze upon the simplicity and purity of minimalism. At the tender age of 23, with the daring of a seasoned maverick, Stella presented a series of flat, black paintings. Constructed with practical house paint on exposed canvas, these works featured formulaic grid bands and stripes. His work ignited critical acclaim, marking him as a force to be reckoned with in the art community.

Stella embraced the passing of time, allowing it to weave its influence into his creations. The meticulous structure that marked his signature style continued to resonate throughout the years, evolving steadily to incorporate curved lines and resplendent hues. His work, like the eponymous Protractor series, began reflecting a visceral blend of geometric abstraction and saturated colors.

As the 1970s faded into history, Stella sought to push his artistry beyond the conventional strictures of two-dimensional pieces. He began introducing a three-dimensional aspect, using metals and other mixed media to strategize a fluid boundary between painting and sculpture. This resulted in work that seemed to defy categorization.

Even as age caught up with Stella, his passion for creation remained undiminished. His latest works, exhibited proudly at the Jeffrey Deitch Gallery in New York City, served as a testament to his enduring prowess and vision. The pieces are massive, vibrantly hued sculptures crafted from bands that twine and spiral through space—each one seeming to defy gravity itself.

Deitch, in reflecting upon Stella’s last works, honored the late artist: “The current work is astonishing. He felt that the work that he showed was the culmination of a decades-long effort to create a new pictorial space and to fuse painting and sculpture.” Thus, despite the heartbreaking loss, Stella’s legacy continues—an everlasting beacon in the world of art.

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.