TOLEDO, OHIO–When Brian P. Kennedy was named the ninth director of the Toledo Museum of Art, he was working on an exhibition devoted to Frank Stella’s Irregular Polygons for the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College. While fulfilling his final obligations as director of the Hood Museum last fall, Stella encouraged Kennedy to bring these important works to Toledo as well.
With the cooperation of the Hood Museum of Art and lenders to the exhibition, the Toledo Museum of Art will present Frank Stella: Irregular Polygons from April 8–July 24 in its Canaday Gallery. Admission to the exhibition is free.
A consistent innovator at the forefront of abstract art, Stella produces his works in series, immersing himself in visual thinking and creating according to the principle of, in his words, “line, plane, volume, and point, within space.”
This exhibition presents one of each of the artist’s 11 monumental compositions for the Irregular Polygons series (1965–66), along with preparatory drawings and the 1974 print series Eccentric Polygons based on the Irregular Polygons. Stella uses the same shapes but varies colors in the lithograph series.
“Together the objects provide visitors a chance to engage with the ‘complex simplicity’ that is the paradox of Stella’s work,” says Kennedy, who became director of the Toledo Museum of Art last Sept. 1. “It’s the first time all of these monumental works will have been displayed in one room. In fact, until this exhibition was organized, all of them had never had been shown together,” he notes.
What’s perhaps even more startling is that Frank Stella is the first artist in history to create a deliberate set of paintings shaped as irregular polygons. Before Stella, most often paintings were rectangular or more rarely, oval, circular or square, as Kennedy points out in the 134-page scholarly catalog he wrote to accompany the exhibition.
Although based on simple geometries, the Irregular Polygons comprise one of the most complex artistic statements of Stella’s career.
Each of the 11 compositions combines varying numbers of shapes to create daringly irregular outlines. Stella made four versions of each composition, changing the color combinations. Created in 1965-66, they mark a radical shift from his earlier striped paintings in their use of large fields of color. The asymmetric canvases play with illusion, confronting Stella’s previous emphasis on flatness while continuing his career-long exploration of space and volume in both painting and sculpture.
Stella first burst on the New York art scene in 1958, when some of his “black paintings” were shown in the exhibition Sixteen Americans at the Museum of Modern Art. Born in 1936, he attended Phillips Academy, Andover, and Princeton University, from which he graduated in 1958. He has lived in New York ever since.
Consistently inventive, Stella, now 74, is perhaps the most significant artist to work in the abstract tradition of painting, sculpture and print making over the past 50 years. President Barack Obama described him as “obviously a legend for his accomplishments as one of the world’s most innovative painters and sculptors” when presenting him the National Medal of Arts, the nation’s highest honor for artistic excellence, in 2010.
The Toledo exhibition of his Irregular Polygons, organized and originally shown at the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College on Oct. 9, 2010–March 13, 2011, is made possible by members of the Toledo Museum of Art. The exhibition also is supported in part through the sustainable grant program of the Ohio Arts Council, which encourages economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans.
The exhibition catalog, published by the Hood Museum of Art, is available for purchase in the TMA Museum Store and on the Museum’s website (www.toledomuseum.org). A free mini-guide to the exhibition is available for visitors.
Admission to the Museum is free. The Museum is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.; closed Mondays and major holidays. Friday evening hours are made possible by Fifth Third Bank.
The Museum is located at 2445 Monroe Street at Scottwood Avenue, just west of the downtown business district and one block off I-75 with exit designations posted. For general information, visitors can call 419-255-8000 or 800-644-6862, or visit www.toledomuseum.org.
- Toledo Museum of Art