In honor of an exhibition of his recent work, which opened on October 1, 2009 at the Paul Kasmin Gallery
, Frank Stella
gave an interview with Time Out New York
. I love to hear and read what artists have to say about their work, creative process, career, etc. Stella is a particular favorite!
From Time Out
You’ve taken a lot of risks in your work over the years. Do you agree?
Other people talk about risk taking. I mean, I don’t see it as much of an issue, honestly, because this is what I want to do. In order to see something that you haven’t seen, which probably will never happen, but you’re looking all the time, and you are looking for things—in order to find something that holds your attention and you can work with and everything—what can the risk be? That it fails? And, I mean, failure is relative. And I don’t worry about taking risk. If something is not beautiful, then I’m unhappy with it, and there are some things that are certainly not so beautiful, but they get by. But you’re still striving for the ones that really feel beautiful in the end. And so that’s what it’s about. The risk is committing yourself to try to make art. It’s just one risk, and after that there’s no risk. You know, that’s what you are going to do: The die is cast.
When you said that the goal is “to see something that you haven’t seen,” have you ever done that?
Well, I’ve probably never really had it. I’ve had some things that, for a while, I thought I hadn’t seen before. I painted this painting in 1958 called Delta. I made a painting, and then I got mad at it and I painted it out, and then I went to sleep. And the next day I looked at it and I said, “Oh, that’s just a terrible mess, just like it was last night.” And then, I don’t know, it was just around and a couple days later I started to look at it and it was a kind of mess, in a way, but it seemed like there was something there, like something was coming through it. And then I really started to get interested in it. So, I hadn’t really seen it before. But then things always come back to you, like there’s a version of it out there somewhere.
Can you talk about the first time you used fluorescent colors?
I think the first time I used fluorescent colors was kind of deliberate in the paintings. But I don’t know what year it was: 1962 or ’63? I had an idea to make these paintings about Morocco—the heat, the desert and all of that. They were basically two-color paintings, but fluorescent yellow was one of the colors. There were stripes, which alternated colors: a color and yellow. So, red and yellow, blue and yellow, green and yellow, and they were all fluorescent. Fluorescent paint had been around—I just wanted to make paintings that had no other reference except the fact of them being fluorescent, and to see how they would look. What resulted is that they didn’t really seem that fluorescent, since fluorescence usually shows up better in relief against a color like black. That’s what nightclubs do; for effect, they put their fluorescents against black...