Frank Stella: Imaginary Places

March 16 – May 6, 2017

Frank Stella

Press Release




Imaginary Places



March 16th – April 28th, 2017


Opening Reception: Thursday, March 16th, 5:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. 



Anders Wahlstedt Fine Art is pleased to present an exhibition of select prints by Frank Stella from his celebrated Imaginary Places series. Produced over a period of four years, the prints of Imaginary Places are named for The Dictionary of Imaginary Places by Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi. Written in the style of nineteenth-century traveler’s guides, the book is an archive of fictional locations culled from world literature. The six prints included in this exhibition, however, take their titles from Godfrey Sweven’s Riallaro: The Archipelago of Exiles (1901) and Limanora: The Island of Progress (1903; both New York and London).

The prints of Imaginary Places possess the same baroque exuberance of gesture that defines the paintings and reliefs of the Imaginary Places Series (1994-2004). Begun the same year, they are identifiable by their teeming compositions of twisting, colliding, and knotted forms, held in check by their squared formats. Shapes often spill out of these formats, seeming to evade, even obliterate, their containers. To realize these dynamic, extravagant compositions, Stella employed his full arsenal of printmaking media—including etching, engraving, aquatint, mezzotint, relief printing, lithography, and screenprinting.  

Motifs in the Imaginary Places prints are both appropriated from the artist’s vast repository of discarded proofs and plates and newly invented. Stella drew upon, among other sources, fragmentary elements from the Circuits and Moby Dick prints, as well as portions of his cast- and poured- aluminum plates created when he was working on his sculpture at the Polich Tallix Fine Art Foundry in upstate New York. Relief, which had always been a primary preoccupation of Stella’s in his paintings and prints, was a means to extend pictorial space into that of the viewer—a demand for his or her immediate visual and physical engagement with the work. It is once more at the fore in the Imaginary Places prints. As he had done since the Swan engravings, Stella continued to experiment with adding etched-metal elements to his printing matrices to intensify texture and enhance relief. 

The prints of Imaginary Places insist that the viewer think physically in surface and space, not merely reflexively about ideas. Color must be seen as a structural element in these prints, a material in and of itself. Their lively blend of artistic innovation and spatial investigation are characteristic of Stella’s artmaking and demonstrate how the artist’s highly experimental endeavors in printmaking have redefined the traditional print.

Born in Malden, Massachusetts, in 1936, and based in New York City, Frank Stella has produced a body of work unrivaled in both quality and diversity over the last six decades. The artist first studied painting at Phillips Academy, Andover and Princeton University. After graduating from Princeton in 1958 with a degree in History, Stella moved to New York, where his work quickly garnered critical acclaim. Since his first one-man exhibition at the famed Leo Castelli Gallery in 1960, Stella has exhibited widely throughout the United States and abroad. In the early years of his career, Stella’s work was included in a series of museum exhibitions that came to define the realm of postwar art, including Sixteen Americans (Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1959), Geometric Abstractions (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1962), The Shaped Canvas (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1964-1965), Systemic Painting (Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York, 1966), Document 4 (Kassel, Germany, 1968), and Structure of Color (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1971). 

In 1970, Frank Stella became the youngest artist ever to receive a career retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. He was the subject of an unprecedented second retrospective at the same institution in 1987. In 2015, the Whitney Museum of Modern Art presented a retrospective of Stella’s work that spanned the entire fifth floor of the institution’s new Renzo Piano-designed building. The blockbuster exhibition then traveled to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the de Young Museum, San Francisco. Last year, Stella’s prints were the subject of a major retrospective at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, followed by a national tour of the exhibition. Stella’s work features prominently in the permanent collections of major museums, cultural institutions, and private collections worldwide.