Books February 1987
Frank Stella’s crisis
A review of Working Space by Frank Stella.
Two considerations are bound to direct our reading of Frank Stella’s book, an extensively illustrated volume which prints the Charles Eliot Norton lectures he delivered at Harvard three years ago. First, we will want to know about the attitudes that have so often made Stella’s painting prominent in the last quarter of a century. These turn out to be ambitious. It is not often (not in public, anyway) that an artist proposes a large historical scheme to explain the history of art, his own work, and also the desirable future of art. Yet this is Stella’s purpose; and those who admire his painting will find, on reading Working Space, that they are being asked to admire it far more thoroughly than they have done heretofore.
Secondly, however, and more importantly, we will want to know whether what we are being told is true. It is unfortunate that the nature of Stella’s...
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