Frank Stella


Department of Architecture and Planning (Bldg. 7, 3rd floor), Wolk Gallery

Frank Stella came to prominence as a painter in the late 1960s; he became known first for his hard-edged geometric paintings and later for a series of austere black paintings. His work was rigorously formal and Minimalist, insisting on the flatness of the canvas surface. He refused to admit references to the figure or expressive gestures into his painting, and he once said of his work, “What you see is what you see.”

In the 1970s, Stella’s work took a new direction, when his paintings became three-dimensional reliefs with exuberant forms and colors. (An example this period of his work Heads or Tails, 1988, hangs in the Tang Center lobby at the Sloan School). Loohooloo is from 1994, and here Stella has moved to embrace the entire architectural space. The work blurs the boundaries that have traditionally separated painting, sculpture, and architecture, and incorporates aspects of all three. The work is approximately 10 feet high, and it wraps around the walls of the room to a length of 97 feet. The conference room that houses it was specially constructed to the work’s dimensions during the renovation of the School of Architecture and Planning in 1995. The title refers to a fictitious locale in Herman Melville’s novel Omoo. In the novel, fishermen come to the reefs at Loohooloo to spear fish by torchlight, throwing their spears into the foaming waves.  The painted surfaces and the continuous curving and undulating surface convey sensations of crashing waves, continuing motion and expansive space. The shapes painted on the fiberglass armature were derived from photographs of smoke rings blown by the artist in his studio, which were then manipulated in a computer. Frank Stella’s Loohooloo came to MIT thru the generosity of alumnus Eliot K. Wolk, MIT Class of 1957, an art collector with a special interest in Stella’s work.

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Frank Stella






Room-size installation, acrylic on fiberglass


120 in. x 1164 in. x 48 in. (304.8 cm x 2956.56 cm x 121.92 cm)


Gift of Elliot K. Wolk, MIT Class of 1957