New York

Frank Stella

Gagosian Gallery (21)

Having seen Frank Stella’s black and metallic paintings reproduced a thousand times, we rarely encounter the authentic works. When we do, we notice every crooked line, broken seam, and tarnished inch of surface. Each imperfection, raised brushstroke, and uneven passage of paint burns into retinal permanence. What photographic reproductions never reveal, we commit to memory. Photographs obscure both their handmade quality and the fact that the paintings have changed over time. Once presumably seamless, now the hard edges are cracked, nicked, and eroded. The fresh bloom of metallic pigments has oxidized, and surfaces are mottled with passages of light and dark. The chilly mechanical anticolors have become vibrant, softly luminous, and surprisingly lush. Or was it always that way?

The discourse around these paintings is among the most codified of the 20th century; we know well not to look for

to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the PRINT EDITION of the December 1990 issue for $17 or the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.