Frank Stella creates art that is about itself, analyzing and reimagining materials and surface values. From the early minimalist series of Black Paintings, the artist’s greatest influence hasn’t been from any particular art movement, but from his compulsion to go for broke. Despite all of his fame and success, Stella continually looks for new modes of expression – a new kind of painting, a new kind of relief, and even a new kind of sculpture. Yet Frank Stella reveals to us an eye fixed on creating art that serves to keep the history of abstraction vital and relevant.
The riotous exuberance of “Midnight, Forecastle,” seems light years from those extraordinarily reductive paintings that banish illusionistic space or a narrative. Modeled on a computer, it is a construct of cut, trimmed, bent, and torqued honeycomb aluminum incised and painted in a wide range of fluorescent, metallic and acid colors that explode into low and medium relief.
The sculpture is part of a series of over 130 aluminum wall-reliefs inspired by the chapters of the classic American novel, Moby Dick. A few works from the series were included in the highly successful Frank Stella retrospective at the Whitney Museum in 2015 through 2016. There is something of a narrative in “Midnight, Forecastle”, but Stella likes to point out that it is as much an homage to the great Abstract Expressionist painters as it is a metaphor for Melville’s themes of intangible, unreachable greatness.