Frank Stella, Can Hassan II (1999), cast painted aluminum and steel, 88″ x 94″ x 40″; courtesy Paul Kasmin Gallery
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We’re all familiar with the serial murderer’s lament: Stop me before I kill again! Here’s the art critic’s variant of same: Stop Frank Stella before he creates more!
Mr. Stella’s recent efforts, on display at Paul Kasmin Gallery, confirm that his baroque tendencies increase in direct proportion to the pointlessness of his art. The only thing fueling the monstrous curlicues of steel pipe and torquing panels of carbon-fiber fill is the egotist’s unrelenting need for attention. The operatic flourishes, grandiose scale and extravagant muscularity–they’re the Famous Artist’s equivalent of a temper tantrum.
Good luck to him. If Mr. Stella thinks bombast can disguise a deficit of sculptural know-how, or that a frantic scramble for aesthetic rationale will generate the real thing, well, he’s wrong. He fares better working on a small scale only because less material, less effort and less precious space have been squandered in the process. As for the big stuff: It’s overweening, irredeemable and ugly as sin.
History knows Mr. Stella as the progenitor of Minimalism. Let history keep him; the here-and-now has enough problems as it is.
© 2005 Mario Naves
Originally published in the May 8, 2005 edition of The New York Observer.