Frank Stella

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Stamp by Frank Stella for Documenta X in Kassel Germany, 1997.

Frank Philip Stella (born May 12, 1936) is an American painter and printmaker. He is a significant figure in minimalism, post-painterly abstraction and offset lithography.


  • Only what can be seen there [in the painting] is there... What you see is what you see.
    • In 1964 interview, as cited in: Harold Rosenberg (1972) The De-Definition of Art. p. 125.
  • I always get into arguments, with people who want to retain the old values in painting — the humanistic values that they always find on the canvas. If you pin them down, they always end up asserting that there is something there besides the paint on the canvas. My painting is based on the fact that only what can be seen there is there. It really is an object. Any painting is an object and anyone who gets involved enough in this finally has to face up to the objectness of whatever it is that he's doing. He is making a thing.
    • In: LIFE, Vol. 64, nr. 3, 19 January 1968, p. 49.
  • I see my work, as being determined by the fact that I was born in 1936.
    • In: Frank Stella, ‎Philip Leider, ‎Fort Worth Art Museum (1978) Stella since 1970: exhibition The Fort Worth Art Museum. p. 96.
  • If we are the best, it is only fair that they imitate us.
    • In: Alexander Alberro, ‎Blake Stimson (1999) Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology. p. 227
Frank Stella sculpture Catal Hüyük on Hallbergsplatsen in Borås, Sweden.
Sculpture Memantra by Frank Stella, Metropolitan Museum of Art New York City
  • The aim of art is to create space — space that is not compromised by decoration or illustration, space within which the subjects of painting can live.
    • Quoted in: Alan D. Bryce (2007) Art Smart: Art Smart: The Intelligent Guide to Investing in the Canadian Art Market. p. 55.

Interview in: Bomb: X Motion Picture and Center for New Art Activities, 2000[edit]

Bomb- X Motion Picture and Center for New Art Activities, Nr. 70-73, (2000),

  • I don't know how I got into sculpture. I liked its physicality, that's the only reason. I didn't have a program.
    • p. 28, In response to the question: Is that one of the reasons you went into sculpture?
  • They are more complex to begin with, but their organization, the way they end up being put together, isn't that different. You can't shake your own sensibility. No matter what the concept is; the artist's eye decides when it's right... which is a notion of sensibility.
    • p. 28.
  • The paintings got sculptural because the forms got more complicated. I've learned to weave in and out.
    • p. 28.
  • I know what I want, but it's physically beyond me now. I can work on what I can handle. It's a playoff between the object and my physical limits.
    • p. 28.
  • I hate to say this.. it's made to order. Then, I disorder it a little bit or, I should say, I reorder it. I wouldn't be so presumptuous to claim that I had the ability to disorder it. I wish I did.
    • p. 28.
  • Time is what you have left.. you just march with it and use it the best you can.
    • p. 28.
  • They just want to get a handle on you and the idea, and that's enough. Some people sense more but they don't really get into it because it's going one step too far. But the whole idea of making art is to be open, to be generous, and absorb the viewer and absorb yourself, to let them go into it. I have to go into all those places in order to make it work.
    • p. 29.
  • When people still talk about art that I made in the 60s— most of them never saw it, and they never lived through it, and they don't have a clue about it. The idea that they know what minimalism is is absurd. I don't know what minimalism is!
    • p. 29.
  • People say that the paintings are always big because they're striving for effect, but they're also big so that I don't trip over myself, so that I have room to work, and people can come in and be comfortable.
    • p. 29.
  • I don't like a lot of the stuff that goes on in the art world, but it's hard to be old and like what goes on around you. Anyway, the real point is that the things that don't seem to me to be pictorially informed are not so interesting to me.
    • p. 30.

Quotes about Frank Stella[edit]

  • Stella is not interested in expression or sensitivity. He is interested in the necessity of painting... His stripes are the paths of brush on canvas. These path leads only into painting.
    • Carl Andre in: "Preface to Stripe Painting" in: Sixteen Americans Miller ed. (1959), p. 76
  • I've been educated in some pretty lively barrooms, like the Cedar Bar in New York. And I went to high school with Frank Stella and when he got out of college he went to New York and started painting.. ..I was working with sculpture in a kind of dilatory way, and he said to come up and work in his tiny loft when he wasn't there. At the same time I sort of dabbled in a little bit of painting, and a kind of confusion.I was an eye, ear, nose, and throat person too.. ..One day Frank Stella just said to me, “Look, if you paint another painting I’m going to cut off your hands.” I asked, “Can’t I become a good painter?” Frank said, “No, because you are a good sculptor now.” That’s really my formal education.. ..the company of artists is the great education.
    • Carl Andre, as quoted in ”Artists talks 1969 – 1977” ed. Peggy Gale, The Press N.S.C.A.D, Nova Scotia, Canada 2004, p. 27
  • So I had carved one face with hollows curving in-out, in-out, very simple really. I set the timber upright and (Frank) Stella came in (it was Stella’s loft where Carl Andre was sculpting then, ed.) and came over and looked at the chiseling and said it looked good. He turned around to the back of the piece which was uncut – the backside of the timber – and he said, you know that’s sculpture too. I supposed what he meant to say was, that cutting was a good idea and the idea of not cutting was good too.
    • Carl Andre, as quoted in ”Artists talks 1969 – 1977” ed. Peggy Gale, The Press N.S.C.A.D, Nova Scotia, Canada 2004, p. 29

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