Unbounded Doctrine - encountering the art-making career of Frank Stella

“There are two problems in painting. One is to find out what painting is and the other is to find out how to make a painting.”

These words, the opening volley in a lecture Frank Stella delivered at Pratt Institute in 1960, have animated the artist’s practice for almost sixty years. Indeed, to look back over the arc of Stella’s career—from the dizzying heights he achieved with the Black Paintings through the challenges posed by the Irregular Polygons to his more recent monumental painted wall reliefs—is to see an artist who is constantly reimagining what painting could be, and, therefore, constantly relearning how to make paintings. And yet, within these seemingly limitless parameters, there is one thing that has never been open to debate: for Stella, who came of age when Abstract Expressionism ruled the New York art scene, painting has always been, and must always remain, abstract. This sacrosanct imperative made Stella the darling of the ’60s and ’70s, championed by formalist critics including Michael Fried and Clement Greenberg.