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Houston Art Legend Doesn’t Trust Google, But He Loves Musical Colors: Inside the Mind of Frank Stella

BY // 02.23.18
photography Daniel Ortiz

What: An Evening with Frank Stella

Where: Moores Opera House at the University of Houston

PC Moment: Few names are as closely associated with Houston public art like Frank Stella, and a thoughtful panel discussion at UH was the main event when the New York City-based artist stopped into town. Presented by Public Art of the University of Houston System, in observation of the 20th anniversary of Stella’s three-part mural Euphonia commission at the Moores Opera House, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s Alison GreeneDon Bacigalupi (director of UH’s Blaffer Museum when the university commissioned Euphonia), and Project Row Houses founder/UH professor Rick Lowe led the talk after opening statements from Moores director Andrew Davis.

Though Stella is equally renowned as a sculptor and printmaker, he’s certainly a master of painting. He made an astute observation about abstract expressionists: “It was a way of making that surface move – rather than depicting movement or having things move across the canvas… which is a version of illusionism. Painting thrives on illusionism.”

In a wide-ranging conversation that drifted from synesthesia (seeing colors in music, or hearing music in art – a sensibility relevant to Stella’s abstract mural inside an opera house) to the usefulness of public art (an increasingly difficult challenge to get people to pay attention in the age of smartphones, per Stella), the 81-year-old was as sharp as ever, and attuned to the modern world, even if he claimed the only Google he trusts is Barney Google.

Who: More than 130 art aficionados and the culturally curious joined Stella for a private cocktail reception before the sold out conversation inside Moores, including the evening’s chair Judy Nyquist; Houston Arts Alliance’s John Abodeely, the MFAH’s Gary Tinterow with Christopher Gardner, Minnette Boesel, Blaffer Art Museum’s new director Toby Kamps, Lester Marks, Frances Marzio, Gracie Cavnar, Leigh and Reggie Smith, Lea Weingarten, the artist’s wife Harriet Stella, Beth Madison, Cullen Geiselman, Jo and Jim Furr, Eloise Brice, artist Francesca Fuchs, and Carrie and Sverre Brandsberg-Dahl.

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