MINUS SPACE is delighted to present the exhibition Ted Stamm: Paintings, an overview of paintings, works on paper, street interventions, and other materials by the late NYC-based abstract painter. Prior to his unexpected death from heart failure in 1984, Stamm created a substantial, mature body of work that was at once responsive to the past, indicative of his time, and prescient of the future.
Ted Stamm was born in Brooklyn in 1944. At age eleven, his family moved to Freeport, Long Island, where he spent the remainder of his youth. He enrolled in Hofstra University in the mid-1960s, where he began by studying graphic design. He quickly moved into painting studying with artists Perle Fine and John Hopkins. He also studied printmaking with artist Richard Pugliese, who later introduced him to the Soho art world. Stamm moved to Soho permanently upon graduating from Hofstra University in 1968.
Between 1968-1972, Stamm produced lyrical abstract paintings consisting of poured red, blue, and pink paint on canvas. In the summer of 1972, he began to cover up these earlier works with grids-like patterns of black marks; he referred to these as his “cancel paintings”. Inspired by the late work of Ad Reinhardt, Stamm consistently used the color black in his paintings from this moment forward. He associated black with rebellion, rigor, and reduction.
In 1973, Stamm began making conceptually-driven work based on chance systems – rolling dice or spinning a roulette wheel – that would determine the format and number of painting layers for a specific work. In 1974, he started working with shaped stretchers and introduced the element of line into his paintings. A year later, Stamm produced his “Wooster” series inspired by a form he had seen on Wooster Street where he lived. At this time, he also began making on his “Dodger” paintings named after the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team. The curved forms and right angles used in these paintings were likely derived from the shape of a baseball field diamond. Examples of both Stamm’s “Wooster” and “Dodger” paintings will be included in the exhibition.
Increasingly engrossed by the concept of speed, the aerodynamic design of cars, trains, and airplanes, and the Modernist charge to reinvent painting for future generations, Stamm began developing his “C-Dodger” paintings in the last 1970s. The “C” in the title referred to the supersonic airplane The Concorde, which Stamm would often travel to see arrive and depart at Kennedy Airport in NYC. Similarly, his “Zephyr” paintings begun in 1979 were informed by the futuristic, stainless steel train that set a speed record for travel between Denver and Chicago in 1934. His later paintings “ZCTs” and “CDDs” from early 1980s hybridized various elements from his earlier “Wooster” and “Dodger” works and were hung low on the wall just inches off the ground. One of Stamm’s “Zephyr” paintings, ZYR-4 (1979, oil on canvas, 33×114 inches), will be on view in the exhibition.
During his career, Stamm was also engaged in making highly experimental works produced in collaboration with other artists and individuals. His “Tag” pieces enlisted the participation of visitors to his studio who were asked to make a mark of their choosing onto a found garment tag that was glued down onto a page in a sketchbook. Stamm would respond to this mark in a second sketchbook of the same design. Both pages were then stamped with the date and other collateral information to create a record of their exchange.
Starting in the mid-1970s, Stamm also made proto-graffiti street interventions, which he termed “Designators”. Using a small stencil of his “Dodger” shape, he painted the shape in black on buildings and other locations in NYC that had personal significance to him. When he returned to a specific site and saw that his original mark had been altered, he would paint the shape again in silver. On his third visit, he would stencil a black “T” on the silver shape. On his fourth and final visit, he would add a second “T”, this time in silver. Images of Stamm’s street interventions will be included in his show, as well as documentation by photographer Abby Robinson of his participation in the Pool Project organized by artist Russell Maltz at the C.W. Post College, Greenvale, NY, in the late 1970s.
In one of his few written statements about his work, Stamm asserts “my work deals with an idealism which announces and supports the advancement of the art language, specifically painting”. More than 25 years after his death, it is clear that Stamm’s persona and character, his optimism about painting’s enduring possibilities and future advancement, and his expanded practice both in and out of the studio were of great significance to his artist contemporaries. His work also anticipated the conceptual strategies and material inquiries of subsequent generations of artists who came of age in NYC during the past three decades.
Ted Stamm (b. 1944 Brooklyn, NY; d. 1984 New York, NY) exhibited his work internationally during his lifetime, including in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States. His work has been included in solo and group exhibitions at venues, such as Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Brooklyn Museum, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, The Clocktower, Marianne Boesky Gallery, Condeso/Lawler Gallery (all New York City), Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, NY), Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum (Ridgefield, CT), Rose Art Museum (Waltham, MA), Contemporary Arts Center (Cincinnati, OH), Museum of Art (Fort Lauderdale, FL), Oklahoma Museum of Art (Oklahoma City, OK), Santa Barbara Museum of Art (Santa Barbara, CA), Grand Rapids Art Museum (Grand Rapids, MI), Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts (Montgomery, AL), Denver Art Museum (Denver, CO), Atkins Museum of Fine Art (Kansas City, MO), Akademie Der Kunste (Berlin, Germany), and Louisiana Museum (Humlebaek, Denmark).
In 1977, Stamm was included by curator Manfred Schneckenburger in Documenta 6 in Kassel, Germany. His work was exhibited alongside artists, such as Carl Andre, Daniel Buren, James Lee Byars, Walter De Maria, Eva Hesse, Donald Judd, Imi Knoebel, Sol Lewitt, Gordon Matta-Clark, Robert Morris, Blinky Palermo, Robert Ryman, Fred Sandback, and Richard Serra, among others. In addition, Stamm exhibited his work at the legendary Downtown artist-founded venues 112 Greene Street (1975), Artists Space (1975, 1980), and Franklin Furnace (1977, 1980).
Stamm received awards in Painting from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (1983) and the National Endowments for the Arts (1981-1982). His work has been reviewed in publications, such as The New York Times, Artforum, Art in America, ARTnews, Arts Magazine, and The Baltimore Sun, among others.
Stamm’s work is included in the public collections of Brooklyn Museum (Brooklyn, NY), Carnegie Museum (Pittsburgh, PA), Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles, CA); Phoenix Art Museum (Phoenix, AZ), The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art (Ridgefield, CT), Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY), Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York, NY), and Western Australia Art Gallery (Perth, Australia).