Frank Stella, Untitled 1965. John Kaldor Family Collection at the Art Gallery of NSW © Frank Stella. Licensed by Visopy, Sydney
Stella can be regarded as the first minimalist. Reacting against the dominant movement of the time – abstract expressionism – he sought a way of making art that was not premised solely on individual expression. His abstract paintings emphasise flat surfaces, rather than depicting an object. He has said, ‘My painting is based on the fact that only what can be seen there is there.’ Mostly a monochrome painter, he later made strongly coloured paintings but never regarded the colour as expressive.
A signpost in the development of minimalism, Stella’s paintings of the 1960s marked a break in art theories that were prevalent in the US at that time. Stella believed an artwork should avoid any reference to the world beyond the canvas and be complete as a shape with few internal relationships. He defined the surface of a painting according to its own structure and tried not to make too many decisions about laying down paint. In this artwork, the width of the stripes was determined by the width of the canvas’s stretcher bar, which was also the width of Stella’s brush.
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