I was reading the catalog for the show Frank Stella 1958, and one of the writers, Megan Luke, explains Stella’s thinking about edges, which led to the early Black Paintings. He noticed that many of the second generation abstract expressionists would plonk an image in the middle of the canvas, and then feather out to the edge, losing intensity on the way. They couldn’t compose the entire field. Stella’s black stripes do away with the gap between image and edge. But this kind of thinking would also explain his more recent use of frames within frames, mentioned a couple of times on this blog. For an artist who wanted to
return to forms, but also wanted to keep the integrity of his earlier, more formal abstractions, this is an interesting way. This second example looks at first sight to be exactly what he was criticizing back in the day. But I think that implicitly at least, the criticism of the floating image unrelated to the edge is that it was in some sense involuntary or unconscious. For Stella now it’s just one more possibility.
The effect is the same as that achieved by Barré, discussed in the previous post, to make the edges of the image more visible—to work with them and with the space they produce.