By Caitlin Monachino, Curatorial Assistant and Publications Manager
Since The Aldrich’s founding in 1964, Frank Stella has participated in fifteen group shows, and yet, Frank Stella’s Stars, A Survey marks the first exhibition dedicated solely to the artist at the Museum. It is this kind of long-lasting relationship with artists—one that follows their careers and ever-evolving bodies of work—that is a hallmark of The Aldrich’s exhibition program. Frank Stella’s Stars not only shines a light on the artist’s recurring use of the star form for the first time, but also underscores the decades- long history between the artist and the Museum, making for a momentous occasion rooted in past and present.
In 1965, shortly after the newly established Larry Aldrich Museum opened its doors, the exhibition Art of the ‘50s and ‘60s was mounted, showcasing a selection of works from the collection of the prominent art collector Richard Brown Baker. On view in this show was a 10 x 9-inch colored pencil and graphite drawing by Stella titled Tetuan, 1963. Stella’s persistent practice in reproducing and recreating works at varying scales—which continues to this day and is exemplified in Frank Stella’s Stars—generated a larger, fluorescent translation of Tetuan in Tetuan II, 1964, now part of The Glass House’s collection in nearby New Canaan, Connecticut.
Shortly after, in 1969, The Aldrich presented Young Artists from the Collection of Charles Cowles, which exhibited a set of three 1967 lithographs by Stella: Star of Persia I, Star of Persia II, and the Irving Blum Memorial Edition. These prints were made in collaboration with master printer Kenneth Tyler, founder of Gemini G.E.L. in Los Angeles and later Tyler Graphics Ltd. in Westchester County, New York. Amid great excitement, two of the three prints have returned fifty years later—Star of Persia I and II grace The Aldrich’s walls yet again in Frank Stella’s Stars.
Before The Aldrich deaccessioned its collection in the 1980s in order to fully dedicate itself to the presentation of contemporary art, Larry Aldrich and his wife, Wynn, owned two Stella paintings:Khurasan Gate III, 1968, and Bam, 1966. Khurasan Gate III, part of Stella’s infamous Protractor series, 1967–71, was on view in four exhibitions at The Aldrich between 1968 and 1978. Bam, one of Stella’s early shaped canvases, was presented in Exhibitions Fall 1973. Composed of bands of color that meet at two points, Bam suggests the illusion of movement through three distinct sections. The progression of these illusory kinetic effects is evidenced in Frank Stella’s Stars, as the star evolves from two-dimensions to three.
The Aldrich’s history with Stella extends beyond the Museum’s own walls to The Museum of Modern Art in New York. Dedicated to supporting new and emerging artists, Larry Aldrich established a purchase fund at MoMA in 1959 with the sole purpose of acquiring works by American artists that were not already represented in their collection.The Marriage of Reason and Squalor II, 1959, one of Stella’s breakout Black Paintings, was purchased by MoMA through the Larry Aldrich Foundation Fund—the first of many works by the artist to enter their collection. The painting was later exhibited at The Aldrich in 1979 in the exhibition The Minimal Tradition, alongside works by Robert Mangold, Agnes Martin, Robert Morris, Mary Miss, Richard Serra, and Jackie Winsor.
Steadily exhibiting Stella’s work since its onset, The Aldrich has witnessed many seasons of the artist’s vehement experimentation over the years, presenting myriad works from multiple of his acclaimed series. Tantamount to the stars he creates, Stella’s prismatic vitality is a wellspring of awe, and as we look back through the artist’s long- standing relationship with the Museum, it is clear that Frank Stella’s Stars reveals the breadth of the zealous exploration central to his practice.
Top image: Frank Stella’s Star of Persia II was first presented at The Aldrich in 1969. The work features six repeating equilateral triangles, with the exterior face of each missing a triangular notch. Without these notches, the overall form would be a simple hexagon.