The New York Times


On a chilly Saturday morning last weekend, Frank Stella — 85, bespectacled, somewhat scruffy and holding a cane — was overseeing the installation of a sculpture called “Jasper’s Split Star” in the public plaza in front of 7 World Trade Center. “I’m not in such great shape,” he said more than once, but he still moved about his work with excitement, chatting up the small construction crew that was building out the sculpture using a large crane (though, perhaps tellingly for this part of New York, not the largest crane within view).

The New York Times


RIDGEFIELD, Conn. — For Carl Jung, a name was not just a name. In his 1960 book “Synchronicity,” the Swiss psychiatrist proposed that what you’re called may have a determining effect on your whole life, structuring your behaviors and your outlook in ways that resemble a secret compulsion. Someone called Herr Gross (“Mr. Tall,” in German) probably “suffers from delusions of grandeur,” Jung wrote, while Herr Kleiner (“Mr. Little Guy”) “has an inferiority complex.” The good doctor did not spare himself from this diagnosis; why is Herr Doktor Jung so interested in youth, while Freud (“Dr. Joy”) espouses the pleasure principle? A pretty silly theory. But then consider “Frank Stella’s Stars, a Survey,” a quiet but cheering exhibition at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum here. Badly misclassified as a “minimalist” since the debut of his striped black paintings in 1959, Stella has spent decades reformatting the shapes and materials of abstract painting — to the point that his bulging reliefs and metal casts became something more sculptural than painterly. How to reconcile the gestures of art in two dimensions with the volumes of three? He found one answer, late in his career, in his own last name: the star (stella, in Italian), a motif he first explored nearly 60 years ago, then abandoned, and has since returned to with verve.

The New York Times Style Magazine


STARS — THE KIND that appear in the cosmos — have coordinates, not addresses, and the same is true for certain earthbound luminaries, too. One gloomy November morning, I follow my GPS to an anonymous set of buildings in the Hudson Valley. The rain buckets down forebodingly, but I know I’m on the right track when I make out a set of immense cast-aluminum and stainless-steel sculptures by the side of the road, a few of them distinctly stellar in shape. For good measure, the name “Stella” is spray-painted on a piece of wood indicating the entrance.



A RETROSPECTIVE EXHIBITION presupposes an identifiable individual as the author of its contents. The philosopher Mark Johnston, however, cautions that we may place too much weight on this commonsense apperception where the issue of selfhood in any profound sense is concerned: “We do not find much evidence that in tracking objects and persons through time we are actually deploying knowledge of sufficient conditions for cross-time identity.” What permits us to assume on the basis of intermittent exposure to any physical person, he asks, that there is in fact a continuing self that coherently links all the disconnected samplings we experience over time? Such have been the dramatic transformations and reinventions over Frank Stella’s long career—and likewise the critical dismay at enough of them—that the Whitney Museum of American Art’s retrospective in New York asks the viewer to consider where the artist’s consistent self might be discovered. Traversing the exhibition also prompts the question of whether we can or want to discover any such thing.