Stella's Folly

Frank Stella's colorful tangles and whorls show a midcareer misstep

While not going so far as to wish for death, we silently regret that Orson Welles didn't leave show business early on--that the prodigious enfant terrible of theater and film noir didn't stop before becoming the meager homme terrible of Paul Masson wine-hocking. (Please, no wine after its time!) What would have happened if Mozart hadn't died at the unripe age of 36? Would he have shrunk in the shadow of that great Romantic of invention, Beethoven? Or what if he had died even younger? Would we so easily hum and whistle the recognizable melody of "Twinkle Twinkle"? What if the roles of Picasso and his friend Casagemas were reversed? What if it were Picasso and not Casagemas who was the heartbroken bohemian who fatefully committed suicide in early 1901, thereby becoming the catalyst of another Spanish painter's self-realization? Would we be forever feasting on the somber paintings of Casagemas' Gray and Ochre periods rather than those of Picasso's Blue and Rose?

"Diepholz II" (1982), from Frank Stella's "Circuits" series
"Diepholz II" (1982), from Frank Stella's "Circuits" series


is on display through April 3 at the Nasher Sculpture Center. Call 214-922-1200.

What we don't know is what we don't see--the work Stella has done since 1989. Happy to say, it has gotten better. With pieces such as "Die Kurfürstin" (1998) and "Friedrich Wilhelm Kurfurst von Brandenburg" (1998), he has shed the bright colors from his sculpture and increased their scale to a truly in-your-face room size. After a midcareer misstep, it seems Stella is swinging once again.

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