Frank Stella achieved a breakthrough in the Exotic Birds series, which he began in 1975. The curvilinear Exotic Birds are a radical departure and breathtaking foray into what has been called Stella's "second career." Whereas Stella's earlier works were defined by their adherence to geometric order, via stripes or progression, in the Exotic Birds, there is no immediately recognizable system or order. Instead, Stella utilizes a subtler ordering principle of curves and linear forms derived from draftsman's tools -such as the French curve that draftsmen use to make smooth renderings of complex curves. Perhaps the best of the series, the resulting composition of Eskimo Curlew is solidly anchored within the rectangle, which contrasts with the exuberant handling of paint and glittery crushed glass on the sweeping, curving surfaces of the aluminum.
William Rubin wrote this about the Exotic Bird series in his catalogue essay for the 1987 retrospective of Frank Stella's work held at the Museum of Modern Art,:
"Beginning with the Exotic Birds, there is a sense of expansiveness -a confidence and freedom-in Stella's art that stands alone in the abstract painting of the seventies and eighties. Free now of the pervasive a priori planning demanded by the seriality of the stripe paintings, Stella could enjoy the painterly execution of the metal reliefs in a more spontaneous way. The mood of Stella's work becomes, for the first time, exuberant. And the sense of the painter as homo ludens established in these pictures has persisted to the present" (W. Rubin, Frank Stella: 1970-1987, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1987, p. 77).