VIEWLIST: Ted Stamm in Context, Conceived by Bryan Granger

Our fifth VIEWLIST exhibition is conceived by MINUS SPACE assistant Bryan Granger.

With his work, Ted Stamm draws as much from a Minimalist, hard-edge legacy as it does from the randomness and arbitrariness of his own life.  Seeing as Stamm sought to “eliminate any physical boundary in time or space”[1] between his life and his work, we must look at the two as inseparable.  His sleek manipulations of baseball diamonds and high-speed trains offer a glimpse into some of his passions, and his Wooster paintings preserve specific spatial memories from his time in New York.

After the introduction of European painting via the Armory show, several American artists sought to represent the city of New York in a new modernist vernacular. Georgia O’Keeffe’s portrayal City Night, 1926 demonstrates the dynamism of a highly modernized city with angular lines and stark contrasts—similar properties evoke speed and urbanism in Stamm’s work.  Likewise, speed and mechanization played a prominent role in the philosophy of the Futurists; Giacomo Balla’s Swifts: Paths of Movement + Dynamic Sequences, 1913, conveys the seemingly imperceptible velocity of a being in flight.

Throughout his work, Stamm routinely adhered to the language of Minimalism, even as other painters increasingly turned to new forms of figuration and Expressionism.  He began using shaped canvases in the mid 1970s with his Wooster series; this experimentation with the physical structure of painting certainly echoes that of Frank Stella, among others.  Stamm’s legacy of starkly angular canvases can also be traced in the work of Li Trincere—who knew him personally—Robert Mangold, Ruth Root, and Steven Parrino.

Stamm’s austere color palette of black and white—or raw canvas, at times—also remains a hallmark of his work.  The raw canvas in works such as his Dodgers series contrasts sharply with the deep black Stamm used; this contrast was also invoked continually by John McLaughlin, among other hard-edge painters.  Turning to the color black due to its association with “badness or unconformity and rebellion,”[2] Stamm also used the color on account of its ability to cancel out any appearance of subjective brushstrokes, thereby reinforcing the materiality and objecthood of the canvas that it marks.  The high density of the color black Stamm used, which at times was mixed with graphite to accentuate its textural properties, gave his paintings a sense of gravity, echoing the iron works of Richard Serra.  Stamm’s installation of the works close to the gallery floor only reinforced this connection.

Working in the 1970s in New York, Stamm was certainly aware of Conceptual and Fluxus art practices.  His Tag Pieces demonstrate a connection to Conceptual artists like On Kawara, but they ultimately reflect his desire fuse his life and his art.  For each Tag Piece, Stamm would glue a textile tag—presumably found in his studio—to a page in a notebook and have an acquaintance mark it as they see fit.  After this, Stamm would repeat the process himself in a second notebook, this time marking information such as the date and persons involved.  The ritual This recording of daily events is but one strategy in his efforts to link his work with happenings in his own life, something Stamm achieved throughout his entire body of work.



[1] Tiffany Bell, “Painting for the Future,” in Ted Stamm Painting Advance 1990, exh. cat. (Brookville, NY: Hillwood Art Gallery, Long Island University, 1986), 5.

[2] Ibid., 7.

VIEWLIST is our online project space where we invite artists and others to curate a visual essay of images. VIEWLIST exhibitions are experimental and usually thematic, and can include art works spanning various time periods, movements, and geographic locations. Exhibitions may also include ideas and images from disciplines outside of the visual arts. With VIEWLIST, we’ve created a venue that focuses exclusively on ideas, a kind of idealized curatorial space, where exhibition budgets, loans and acquisitions of art works, timelines, and all other logistics are set aside.