Frank Stella Appears in New Masters Series at TMA

Posted Mar 30th, 2011 by Teri Sharp  Category: Arts & Entertainment,


TOLEDO, OHIO–Frank Stella, a 2010 winner of the U.S. National Medal of Arts, inaugurates a new series of public programs featuring renowned artists and scholars at the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle.

The series kickoff event at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 7 is a discussion between the celebrated American abstract artist and Brian P. Kennedy, director of the Museum. Tyler Green, noted art critic and blogger (Modern Art Notes), will moderate. A public preview of the exhibition Frank Stella: Irregular Polygons and book signing follow the presentation.

The free event is made possible through the generous sponsorship of the Museum Ambassadors, a group of active Museum supporters and fundraisers.

“The Ambassadors have been the generators and supporters of big ideas around the Museum for many years,” Kennedy said. “They founded Collector’s Corner, created a national award-winning cookbook and generally promote the Museum and its activities. We’re pleased that they are willing to support this next big Museum initiative.”

Kennedy was working on an exhibition devoted to Frank Stella’s Irregular Polygons for the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College when he was named the ninth director of the Toledo Museum of Art. 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 presents Frank Stella: Irregular Polygons 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’s series was the first to be planned by an artist as 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 one of the most significant artists 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 by Key Bank and 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 ( 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

Exhibition-Related Programs
Free Presentation
Masters Series Lecture: An Evening with Frank Stella
April 7: 6 p.m., Peristyle
Artist Frank Stella and TMA Director Brian Kennedy reunite for a discussion of Irregular Polygons. The conversation will be moderated by noted art critic and blogger Tyler Green (Modern Art Notes). A public preview of the exhibition and book signing follow the presentation. The event is made possible with the sponsorship of the Toledo Museum of Art Ambassadors.

Special Event
Dinner with the Director: The Shaped Canvas
Thursday, April 21, 7 p.m., Classic Court
Enjoy dinner, wines and a presentation by TMA Director Brian Kennedy. Kennedy will discuss the tendency over many centuries in the Western world toward the non-rectangular painting, and how some artists came to embrace the idea Frank Stella executed in his Irregular Polygons series. Seating is limited. Tickets ($100 Museum members/$120 nonmembers) are all-inclusive and can be purchased by calling 419-254-5771 ext. 7432.

Gallery Talks
June 10 and July 15: 7 p.m., meet in Canaday Gallery
Toledo Museum of Art Director Brian Kennedy, who curated the exhibition, will present a walking tour of Frank Stella’s monumental series, Irregular Polygons, 1965-66.

Free Film
Who Gets to Call it Art?
June 24: 7:30 p.m., Little Theater
In this romp through the New York City art scene of the ’60s, acclaimed artists like Frank Stella and James Rosenquist putter around downtown Manhattan, scraping together loose change for paint, canvas and beer. Centered on the life of Henry Geldzahler, the adventurous Metropolitan Museum of Art curator who championed the careers of Andy Warhol and his contemporaries, the 2006 film is a fascinating look at the birth of modern American art. (78 minutes)

Free Guided Tours
Fridays at 6:30 and 7 p.m.: May 6 and 27; June 24; July 8 and 22
Saturdays at 2 and 3: June 4; July 23
Sundays at 3 p.m.: May 15; June 26; July 3, 17 and 24

FREE Hands On Activities
Color, Line and Shape
April 8: 7–9 p.m., Libbey Court
Create your own “irregular polygons” by combining basic geometric shapes in a variety of colors and materials.

Piece of the Puzzle
May 1: 2–4 p.m., Libbey Court
Frank Stella’s shapes seem to fit together like pieces of a puzzle. Experiment with, manipulate, and connect a variety of shapes to see how you can fit them together like a puzzle.

Thinking Outside the Box
June 3: 7–9 p.m., Libbey Court
Frank Stella showed the world that paintings and frames need not be standard rectangular shapes. Manipulate a matte board to create a whole new way of framing your work of art.

Zig Zags
July 1: 7–9 p.m., Libbey Court
Get inspired by the art of Frank Stella, then create your own “zig zag” shapes using colored masking tape.

Stella’s Storytelling Shapes
July 15: 7–9 p.m., Libbey Court
Frank Stella named many of his works of art after places where he lived or visited. Create your own abstract work of art that tells a story about you using different shapes, lines, and colors.

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