Comments on: Frank Stella Abstract Critical is a not-for profit company aiming to establish a new critical context for all generations of artists involved with ambitious abstract art. Sun, 09 Nov 2014 17:23:33 +0000 hourly 1 By: Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe Sun, 19 Jan 2014 23:29:12 +0000 What continues to be great about this essay is that it’s stirred up so much comment.
(On another note would the editor please contact me as I seem unable to reach him by email….?)

By: Robert Linsley Sun, 16 Dec 2012 17:27:31 +0000 Somewhere in the second MoMA catalogue Stella says something about wanting to work between 2 and 3 dimensions, he may not have used the term 2.5 exactly – I’ll look it up. But it’s just a metaphor anyway. Maybe Robin is right and what we can find between illusion and literalness is only relief in the traditional sense. But it’s not hard to see that a modern artist might feel a pleasant shock when he or she interrupts a pictorial illusion with a bit of real stuff – or in Stella’s case the reverse, when he adds illusion to his literal work – and thereby thinks they’ve come up with something new which needs new metaphors to describe.

As for the pieces we are talking about, commonly called sculptures but for Stella actually paintings – I don’t know if they are any good or not. I know the Moby Dick works are great, and I’m getting closer to the Kleist series, and my thoughts on these are coming out on the blog, but I really don’t know about these. Formally they make sense, but that doesn’t guarantee anything.

We have a plane, as usual in painting. It is warped and bent – so far so good. Then a flat cut-out is applied. Then the plane is cut open and bent back in one place to give another tilted plane a bit further back, and to that is attached a three dimensional form (smoke ring) that sprawls out into our space. The piece is in a logical progression from Stella’s earlier work but quality depends on whether we can feel anything in the forms.

By: Robin Greenwood Sun, 16 Dec 2012 15:41:46 +0000 Sam,
My comment implies that it does not exist. 2.5D is not real.

These Stella reliefs on ‘easles’ are without doubt 3D, but in an entirely literal way, which has nothing to do with sculpture. They are just dumb objects that have a crazy relief attached to one (or both?) sides. They have absolutely nothing to say of intelligence about the three-dimensions that they exist in, which is what one should expect from sculpture.

I’m not really interested in the category either, only in what they are doing – or in this case, not doing. But dodging between categories just evades the problems of addressing either painting or sculpture properly. This is what Stella does.

So Robert, Sam: talk to me about what this relief in the link is doing… Or find another good one that you want to discuss???

By: Noela Bewry Sun, 16 Dec 2012 12:21:33 +0000 I think we just have more categories, thanks to the, ‘heat of a new and exciting visual logic’, rather than a melting or fusing of painting and sculpture.
The notion of a 2.5 dimension seems to describe reliefs/cutouts quite well.

By: Sam Sun, 16 Dec 2012 10:59:24 +0000 The 2 1/2 printer comment is a little too easy isn’t it? By contextualising furiously do you mean actively thinking something through? I would have thought that was to be encouraged. To my mind, even if such as thing as Stella’s work or relief in general had never existed, Robert’s uncertain understanding of painting and sculpture as both abstract concepts and as concrete things seems to be an honest one: individual paintings are not simply concrete instances of an abstract concept that precedes them; the idea that painting can be pushed in new directions depends on the relation being dynamic, does it not?

Does your 2 1/2 D printer comment imply that this sort of work does not exist? That it is always the same? Or that it can never be satisfying?

By: John Bunker Sat, 15 Dec 2012 19:56:30 +0000 Might that different ‘mindset’ have something to do with Picasso’s constructions in cardboard of guitars around 1912?Was it also Picasso who said collage is modernism’s great invention but also it’s great undoing (sorry for dreadful paraphrasing)? Here’s Greenberg being so eloquent about collages importance to modern sculpture:

The picture had now attained to the full and declared three- dimensionality we automatically attribute to the notion “object”‘ and painting was being transformed, in the course of a strictly coherent process with a logic all of its own, into a new kind of sculpture. Thus we see that without collage there would have been no Pevsner, Gonzales, or Giacometti, no Calder or David Smith.

The synthetic phase of cubism begins to melt the categories of painting and sculpture with the heat of a new and exciting visual logic and in so doing gives new energy and dynamism to both. I guess that’s why Stella still excites me as this history permeates his work.

I’m also thinking here about the show Marcus Harvey curated last year called ’2 and a half dimensions’ a term his teacher Harry Thubron used to describe his own relief constructions. (Theres a piece on it on this site-articles from all time)An interesting, if somewhat cluttered show in which I would have loved to have seen a good Stella as it might have blown everything else out of the water.

By: Noela Bewry Sat, 15 Dec 2012 19:30:51 +0000 Thank you for plugging your conversation with Richard Shiff. It is really interesting. There have been many discussions about abstract / representational on this site and it is illuminating that Shiff thinks it is a nonsensical consideration as far as De Kooning is concerned.
What De Kooning does , feels like painting [even though he calls some of it drawing], what Stella does , doesn’t feel like painting.
It’s about a different kind of engagement , indecision , adjustment, revisiting.[Who was it that said they talk to their painting every morning before working on it?]
Maybe the work does reflect the kind of person the artist is.

By: Robin Greenwood Sat, 15 Dec 2012 19:18:45 +0000 Frank will be putting in his order for a two-and-a-half dimensional printer then? Join the queue… Caro’s ahead of him… I think you are contextualising furiously, Robert.

For a few more thoughts on the differences between, see my comment on David Sweet’s new article.

By: Robert Linsley Sat, 15 Dec 2012 15:54:52 +0000 I’m in two minds. “Sculpture” and”painting” are abstract categories, and there really is no reason to try and understand what anyone means when they say these things. They simply are not real, only the objects are real and need to be dealt with in their concreteness, not treated as occasions for argument about categories. Here I’m putting in a plug for the conversation with Richard Shiff, which doesn’t seem to have attracted as much attention as it should, considering the importance of Shiff’s views on this very matter.

On the other hand it is important to talk about the differences between painting and sculpture because in fact there are important concrete differences. So I guess I’m talking in circles – foolish me.

It seems that a painting calls for a planar, frontal address. Also important is that the plane blocks off what’s behind it, it’s not transparent – if it is literally transparent then it blocks vision in some metaphorical way. This planar base condition entails illusionism – a particular kind of pictorial magic not found on every plane, but has to do with the deep nature of art.

The Stellas – – are not painted, but they have variously coloured metal. They are held up by metal posts he calls an “easel,” and clearly meant to be seen from the front, the side with the added shapes. This front plane is not flat, but curved in a complex way, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I’m beginning to understand what he means by 2.5 dimensions. The layered on cut-out shape has a literal depth of maybe 1/4 inch, don’t know exactly, but it has an extra illusionistic kick because the context is painting. It has an illusionistic depth because our habits of viewing art make it so – because we want to spin stories around the shape and want to see it in relation to others, as an animated, moving thing – with an extra literal kick because we can see the edge of the shape and the shadow it casts. So between real and imaginary. Maybe that just makes a traditional relief, not sure, but there it is.

By: Noela Bewry Sat, 15 Dec 2012 11:59:31 +0000 I don’t think there is antagonism between sculptors and painters, but if something has a label it is fair enough to discuss what that label means.
I don’t see the Stella pieces illustrated here as paintings, they are, surely, cut outs that have been painted!
I know the trend is that anything can be called anything nowadays , but it is much more interesting to be specific.
Stella’s pieces seem to tap a different mindset from the one a painting might engage with.