The birds of Frank Stella…
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During the early seventies Frank Stella was said to have entered into his ‘second career’ producing two series of paintings known as the Exotic Birds and the Indian Birds. But can we call them paintings due to their sculptural qualities?
These so called paintings were planned out on graph paper using ‘irregular curves’ which are templates used by draftsmen. Stella then translated the shapes into foam core maquettes, and then had the shapes fabricated in aluminum to form huge reliefs, on which he then painted.
Although these works had three-dimensional qualities, Stella wanted to diminish any form of background so he layered, tilted, bent and even cut into the shapes in order to minimize the presence of a background. Stella pushed this further with a lively painterly execution, decorating the shapes with brightly coloured paints, ground glass and lithography crayons to give an ‘all-overness’ feel to the work.
The reduction of the background meant that Stella wanted to break out of the mold, and move away from traditional painting techniques. Stella was successful in pushing the boundaries because the viewer can see that his paintings are lively and energetic; the huge aluminum shapes protruding from the wall give them their three dimensional form, whilst still keeping their painterly quality.
The irregular curves that Stella uses as a template are so structured and accurate, yet the way he decorates the surface and arranges the shapes gives the pieces so much freedom and movement, as if the shapes them selves become figurative creating motion within the work.
Stella’s amalgamations of techniques within these imaginative works make the viewer ask the question are the Exotic and Indian Birds paintings, sculpture or both?