Artist Frank Stella greeted a visitor on Wednesday to New York's Peter Freeman Gallery, where a show of large, dynamic new sculptures opens today (through Feb. 22). Friendly, diminutive and smoking a cigar, the New York-based artist, 77, led A.i.A. through "Frank Stella: Recent Work," some of whose sculptures measure as much as 18 feet to a side and are marked by bold curves, sinuous shapes and lively coloration.
Two bodies of work, from the "Scarlatti K" series and the "Circus" series, make up the show. The "Scarlatti K" works pay dual homage to musicologist Ralph Kirkpatrick (1911-1984) and composer Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757).
"I like Scarlatti's harpsichord sonatas, which he did toward the end of his life," the artist said. "He produced maybe 500 of them, and Kirkpatrick catalogued them and organized the titles by numbers prefaced with K. The sonatas are quick and intense, and there's a lot of movement in them. These sculptures move."
Indeed, the sculptures each feature central forms, made either of resin or metal, bound together on a wildly dynamic armature of looping metal tubing that recalls the artist's stated debt to the Baroque. The Minimalist pioneer of the '50s has for years created works of explosive energy and color, both of which are present here. The central resin forms, created with a 3-D printing process with which the artist has been engaged for two decades, are brightly colored, in hues like pink, green, teal and orange.
Pointing out the circus-related pieces, Stella was quick to acknowledge his art-historical forebears. "This wouldn't have happened without Calder," he said. One of the works features three platforms, each a few feet wide, "a pretty obvious reference to a three-ring circus," Stella said.
Changing gears, he said mischievously, "No one likes it, but I call these pieces the flea circus." He referred to the shapes arranged along with tubes as the fleas. He declined to specify who dislikes this nomenclature, instead focusing for a few minutes on fleas in history. "As early as the 16th century, jewelers made harnesses for fleas out of gold wire. You can look it up on Wikipedia."