Frank Stella


Frank Stella (b. 1936) is one of our favorite 20th-century artists- he helped topple Abstract Expressionism and ushered in a new era of art making. His aesthetic encouraged Minimalism, Hard-edge abstraction, Op Art, and even Conceptual art. 

In 1970 the Museum of Modern Art, New York presented a retrospective of Stella's work making him the youngest artist at the time (and still to this day!) to receive such a distinction.

Stella began printmaking in 1967 - and it immediately became an essential part of his practice. This work is from the "Polar Co-ordinates for Ronnie Peterson" print series from 1980. 

The title references graph paper and the name of a friend, a Swedish auto racer who tragically died during the Grand Prix in Monza in 1978 - the year Stella began crafting this print series. Stella previously referenced auto racing through his minimally circuitous "Race Track" paintings in the early '70s. (Throughout his life, Stella has been a fan of fast cars. In 1984 he was arrested in his silver Ferrari for speeding)

"Polar Co-ordinates" are derived from Stella's¬†famed "Saskatchewan Series" paintings completed between 1967-1970.¬†ÔĽŅThis particular print has the signature shape of the Flin Flon paintings, which were a modification of his¬†Protractor¬†series. The composition is divided into four semi-circular arcs forming a geometric flower motif,¬†reminiscent of a four leaf clover.¬†Stella¬†breathes color and movement into the traditional¬†diagrams of¬†polar coordinates graph paper, using the grind pattern to swirl around and net this floral form.¬†

The Saskatchewan paintings contained flat-painted, bold color-blocking, while the works in this portfolio showcase colors mixed together and scribbled over one another with colorful, swirling grid backgrounds. This is the result of numerous layers of lithography and screen-printing and marks the first time for Stella that his prints become new works, free of their original source material, even in name.

The multi-step process used to create these prints brings together varying densities of colors, different shapes, calligraphic scribbles, and the polar grid leading to a disintegration of form.

This disintegration marks the series as an essential part of his oeuvre where elements from his past works, which relied on creating form with color-blocking, are juxtaposed with the unraveling of form and color. Stella's works over the succeeding decade shifted from minimalist, hard-edged geometric abstraction to riotous baroque works exploding beyond the canvas. One could say that these prints are the bridge between Stella's minimalist/geometric phase of his career and the hyper-colorful baroque "later work".

Additional images available on request. 

Questions about this piece? Contact us or call +1.416.704.1720. Visit our Toronto gallery on Thursdays or by appointment.

'Polar Co-ordinates V'

USA, 1980

Signed, numbered and dated by the artist 

From an edition of 100

Lithograph, screenprint, and letterpress on Arches Cover paper 

Published by Petersburg Press, New York

38"H 38.5"W 

Framed with plexiglass

Very good condition

Literature: Richard Axsom and Leah Kolb (2016), The Prints of Frank Stella: A Catalogue Raisonné 1967-1982, Axsom, pg. 210. 

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