Frank Stella’s Black Paintings

Frank Stella’s black pictures now showing at L & M Arts on East 78th Street can still emit shock waves.  When they first appeared in 1959 at a show at the Modern, they made more than a ripple. Stella graduated from Princeton in 1958 and had spent just a year in New York, so it was a leap of faith by the Modern to hang his work.  Of the artists in that group show, it was Stella who is most remembered.

Even today we can speculate on what they add up to. They are large. They envelope the viewer in their blackness, they wrap around the viewer, they dominate, overpower but not in a violent way.  Their subtle modulations create lines.  Some lines are clearer than others, but none are mechanically drawn or “hard edge”; they are soft and handcrafted.  They were the beginning of a linear period, not just with Stella, but a generation of artists who came under his influence.

There is a hint of darkness in the titles, but the paintings do not depend on the titles; the titles add little to their appreciation.

For Stella, and perhaps for all the artists of his generation, they mark a new beginning.  Abstract expressionism was all around, but these were entirely different.  Their spontaneity is in their conception, their execution is craftsmanship.  They speak of denial, blacking out the past, but they point to a new direction, one that is shown in the adjoining room where the copper paintings, the next stage, are shown.  The same lines but the color is different.  Here Stella begins to experiment with the shaped canvass where the canvass and its stretcher take on a sculptural form.

Stella would leave the black paintings, as well as many other styles that he evolved over the years.  He is now creating large-scale work that is half sculpture, half painting, sheets of cut aluminum bent, curved, painted, sometimes on a concrete background needing a derrick or gantry crane to move around. Stella operates a thoroughbred farm in Amenia.  His foals have yet to make it to the Derby.  He has had some winners on the track, but not nearly as many as he has had in the art galleries of the world. - SCK

Flash Mob at the Re Institute

A stable of contemporary New York artists curated by Kathleen Cullen are gathered in the barn at the Re Institute in Millerton under the heading “Flash Mob”.  Flash mob is an art scene term meaning coming together in a flash of spontaneity. 

While there seems little in the way of a thematic principal here, there is a consistency in the kind of work gathered and in its quality.  All the pieces are by serious artists who have perfected their particular genre.  There is a high degree of craftsmanship, energy and a sense that the artists have worked hard to get to where they now are.

The most startling work is an 8 by 10 foot rug like tapestry on the floor of the gallery that greets you at the entrance.  A large round luminescent red center seems to vibrate with energy against a sea of rippling cloth. It is called Lagoon and it is by Bayard.

Habitués of PS1 will find the art at the Re Institute familiar; those who think of art as pictures of pretty farmland with red barns and white houses will be uncomfortable. The barn at the Re Institute is (or was) red and the farmland is still pretty, but the art inside has bite, intention and a considerable amount of what the gallery owner calls unorthodoxy.


The discerning viewer may find a piece that makes the visit worthwhile. The variety is wide.  Two small round tables in white are wired like a spiderweb.  Polymer cast shapes painted with gay colors are a cross between a child’s bath toys and Miro’s. They beguile.

Does one read the written words in a painting, or does one look at them as object?

Does the painting demand the words be read? Discuss.


There are over 20 artists, some with a number of works. Painted canvasses were few. There are handsome objects in fiberglass, glass, wire, plaster, and photopolymers. Use of strange materials have gone beyond the experimental.  They are now mainstream.


To see this collection of New York artists in a rural setting, call ahead, 518-567-5359-SCK