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Frank Stella was born in 1936 in Malden, Massachusetts. He enrolled in Princeton University, where he painted and majored in history. Stella moved to New York in 1958 after his graduation. The following year several of his paintings were included in Three Young Americans at the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, as well as in Sixteen Americans at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
In his series of the late 1950s and early 1960s, Stella cast aside illusionistic space for the physicality of the flat surface and deviated from the traditional rectangular-shaped canvas. Beginning in the mid-1960s, Stella further extended the concept of the shaped canvas. He also began his extended engagement with printmaking in the mid-1960s. The Museum of Modern Art in New York presented a retrospective of Stella’s work in 1970. During the following decade Stella introduced relief into his art, which he came to call “maximalist” painting for its sculptural qualities. After introducing wood and other materials in the early 1970s, he began to use aluminum as the primary support for his paintings. As the 1970s and 1980s progressed, these became more elaborate and exuberant. Indeed, his earlier Minimalism became baroque, marked by curving forms, DayGlo colors, and scrawled brushstrokes. Similarly, his prints of these decades combined various printmaking and drawing techniques. In 1973 he had a print studio installed in his New York home.
From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s Stella created a large body of work that responded in a general way to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. During this time the increasingly deep relief of his paintings gave way to full three-dimensionality. To make these works, the artist used collages or maquettes that were enlarged and re-created using industrial metal cutters and digital technologies. In the 1990s Stella began making freestanding sculpture for public spaces and developing architectural projects. Stella’s work was included in several important exhibitions that defined 1960s art, among them The Shaped Canvas and Systemic Painting at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1964–65 and 1966, respectively. His art has been the subject of retrospectives in the United States, Europe, and Japan. Stella continues to live and work in New York.