Frank Stella, known for his eye-popping colors and minimalist modern style, dies at 87

American artist Frank Stella, known for his bold and bright synthetic colors, pin-stripes, symmetry in his pieces — and cool modern minimalist style — died at his home in the West Village of New York’s Manhattan borough on Saturday. He was 87. The New York Times reported that his wife, Dr. Harriet E. McGurk, confirmed his cause of death after a battle with lymphoma — a type of cancerthat begins in the cells of the lymph system. 

The New Yorker described Stella’s style as stunning. He made his mark on the art world after his 1959 graduation from Princeton. 

Stella is known to have invented multiple styles, including a form of neo-Baroque that includes metallic elements with complex reliefs. His body of work also includes numerous sculptures. Art critics noted his “crisp, geometric-shaped canvases in eye-popping synthetic colors,” Peter Schjeldahl wrote

Stella is recognized for grabbing onto a quickly growing Abstract Expressionism movement in a postwar United States. He juxtaposed much of his famous work with what ARTnews called his spare paintings — which he described to minimalist sculptor Donald Judd by saying, “What you see, is what you see.”

He played a known role in redefining painting in the 1950s and 1960s with what critics called zero-degree abstraction, but with maximal-ism in dazzling color combinations.

In his 20s, Stella presented large-scale black paintings with delineated black stripes separated by thin blank lines on the canvas. William Grimes described it all as “austere, self-referential, opaque” — and said, “they cast a chilling spell.”

Stella’s work was displayed by the Museum of Modern Art in a collection of works from 1970 to 1987 that was also published online. In it you see works that appear to almost lift off the surface, even in print. William Rubin wrote in Art International magazine in 1960 that he was “almost mesmerized” and said the works had an “eerie, magical presence.”

In what Christie’s called an “exceptional, intimately scaled example of the artist’s celebrated ‘Black Paintings,'” the auction house listed Stella’s Untitled (Study for Getty’s Tomb) enamel on canvas, mounted on Masonite, that Stella painted around 1959. It was given an estimated value of between $1 million and $1.5 million, and sold for $1,935,000 million. 

In 2015, Stella’s work was honored with a retrospective exhibition by New York’s Whitney Museum. A curator for the show, Adam Weinberg, wrote that Stella stood out for “his impulsiveness, willingness to take risks, desire to be separated from the group and to do things his own way.”

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