So far it is nothing but raves for the new Frank Stella retrospective at the Whitney.
We didn't like it so much.
Yes, we get the progression of materials from black paint to computer technology, and the breaking down of the square canvas as too limiting, and the sculpture-style works that jump off the wall. We sat thru some Art History classes, lived and traipsed through galleries at the evolution of SoHo in the '70s, and the Fun Gallery and the East Village graffiti scene in the '80s and uptown to Chelsea in the '90s. And Stella had shows every step of the way, including his early career retrospective at the Met.
But art is about what moves you, what it makes you feel, and what it makes you think. Most of the work in the show registered pretty low on all those scales.
The Black paintings are famous, and the geometric ones of odd sizes and shapes are familiar, pleasing, colorful and stand the test of time.
Not so much for the later works. Giant metal wall creations based on Moby Dick were, to me, things John Chamberlain would have done and then thrown away. Other sculptures drew the eye everywhere and nowhere at the same time. The colors often were muted and dull.
There was little to nothing I'd want to have on my own wall, and to see every single day.
The work is supposed to be off putting, untraditional and unconventional. It is. So much so that I maintain that no one else likes it either. Why? No one has copied it. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And so much art is derivative of something. Well, a lot of Stella's later work is derivative of zero, and has zero progeny. That says something.
Uh oh. Haven't used the work "juxtaposition" yet. Every art review, comment, caption, book or whatever else almost by law has to use the word "juxtaposition," doesn't it?
The Whitney remains a fab place. Fred W. McDarrah took some great photos of Stella. And lots of names you'll hear on the upcoming Save the Village: The Artist's World tour are represented at 99 Gansevoort Street. Go see the show and decide for yourself.