The joyous chatter of hundreds of students filled the second floor of the Addison Gallery of American Art last Friday evening as members of the Andover community gathered to meet world-renowned American painter and printmaker, Frank Stella ’54. Stella returned to his alma mater for the opening of an Addison exhibit, titled “Frank Stella Prints,” which features his print work.
“I was really shocked and excited [when I found out that Stella was coming to campus] because I thought he was far above and beyond us here at Andover… I think [meeting him] less changed my view of Stella and more changed my view of artists, that really famous artists are real people and a lot of them just live normal lives and they happened to have been lucky enough to have their work recognized,” said Tucker Drew ’17.
Curated by Richard Axsom, Senior Curator at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art and retired art professor from the University of Michigan, “Frank Stella Prints” features over one hundred of Stella’s prints from throughout his entire career as a printmaker, arranged in a chronological fashion.
“The exhibition was intentionally arranged chronologically so one could follow the trajectory of Stella’s printmaking career and begin to see that, while his early work may seem worlds apart from the later, it is the result of a steady and logical progression in which each print series builds on the one before it,” said Allison Kemmerer, Addison Curator of Art after 1950 and of Photography, in an email to The Phillipian.
In “Double Gray Scramble, 1973,” a screenprint on white Arches 88 mould paper, two concentric squares lie side by side. The two shapes feature inverted color schemes, with the square on the right transitioning from white to green to yellow to red and the square on the left gradually changing from black to red to yellow to green.
“I like the contrast, how it’s kind of inverted on one side and the other. And then it has a sense of depth to it which is really nice, [since] it kind of looks like it’s a pyramid almost, like the point is in the middle and then it goes down, but then you can also be looking through it. I also like how simple it is because it’s very geometric… but then it can also be interpreted in many different ways,” said Zenia Bhathena ’19.
Continuing to follow Stella’s journey with printmaking, “A Bower in the Arsacides, 1993” a lithograph, etching, aquatint, relief, collagraph on white TGL, handmade paper, made exactly twenty years after “Double Gray Scramble,” features red, yellow, and light green patches on the left, contrasting the blue, gray, and dark green patterns flowing from the right side of the print towards the center.
“I really like [this piece] because, despite its chaos and different colors… you can still see how beautiful and colorful it is in the end. I really like the clash between the cool colors on the right and the warmer colors on the left because it shows this kind of collision that’s really pretty. But then it’s also kind of chaotic because you don’t know what’s going on, but you are still able get this sense and appreciation of its beauty,” said Carley Kukk ’19.
The pieces featured in the exhibit were chosen from the collection of art collector Jordan D. Schnitzer and his family foundation. Schnitzer first began collecting Stella’s work after being particularly amazed by one of Stella’s earlier pieces.
“[I began collecting Stella’s work] because I just saw the first image which was a little square triangle piece, [and] I just loved it. I didn’t think about it. I didn’t even think about Frank Stella or not. I loved the work, the colors, the design. I think too many people think too much about art and don’t let themselves just feel it and experience it. So what I suggest is go to galleries, go to museums, see artists’ work, and, eventually, something will speak to you just as his work spoke to me,” said Schnitzer.
In addition to attending the opening party of the exhibit, Stella also participated in a panel discussion last Saturday where he, along with Schnitzer, Axsom, and printer Kenneth Tyler, shared their experiences with printmaking and answered questions from members of the Andover community. During the discussion, Stella spoke about his collaboration with Tyler on many of the prints featured in the exhibit.
“[What I like about the exhibit] is how the show as a whole documents Frank Stella’s and Ken Tyler’s (the master printer with whom he made most of his prints) extraordinary innovations in the world of printmaking. With each increasingly complex project, they pushed traditional boundaries and definitions of what a print can be. Together they were an amazing team and this exhibition documents that important relationship,” said Kemmerer in an email to The Phillipian.
Now, almost 70 years after he graduated from Andover, Stella is known as one of the most unique and creative American artists and is admired by many of those who have viewed his work, according to Marabeth Cohen-Tyler, wife of Kenneth Tyler and member of Tyler Graphics, where many of Stella’s prints are made.
“[His work] is totally unique because it’s sort of like a fountain overflowing. He never stops figuring things out and having new ideas and new inventions and new approaches, sort of like Picasso, it just doesn’t stop. There are moments when you just want to scream it’s so exciting and other moments where you stand back and you’re just trying to absorb it, so it’s unlike any other artist that I’ve experienced,” said Cohen-Tyler.
“Frank Stella Prints” will be on view in the Addison until July 30, 2017.