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Ellsworth Kelly (1923-2015), American Minimalist Best Known for Hard-Edge and Color Field Painting


DonRocks
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"Ellsworth Kelly, an Artist Who Mixed Abstract with Simplicity, Dies at 92" by Holland Cotter on nytimes.com

"Artist Ellsworth Kelly, Master of Colorful Abstraction, Dies at 92" by Neda Ulaby on npr.org

"Ellsworth Kelly, the American Abstract Painter and Sculptor, Dies at 92" on theguardian.com

MoMA has 235 works by Kelly online! Included in these are *45* paintings from 1951 alone - a year which must have been extremely fertile for Kelly (he was 27-28 years old), including these four paintings:

nine-colors-1951.jpg "Nine Colors" (1951) - Ink on Paper and Gouache on Paper - 7.5" by 8"

colors-for-a-large-wall-1951.jpg "Colors for a Large Wall" (1951) - Oil on Canvas with Sixty-Four Joined Canvases - 7' 10.5" by 7' 10.5" (!)

W1siZiIsIjE2NDM4OSJdLFsicCIsImNvbnZlcnQi "Spectrum Colors Arranged by Chance VI" (1951) - Cut-and-Pasted, Color-Coated Paper and Pencil on Four Sheets of Black Paper - 37.25" by 37.25"

25884.jpg "Study for Meschers" (1951) - Cut-and-Pasted, Printed Paper - 19.5" by 19.5"

Click on the MoMA link - you have 41 more glorious works to enjoy *just* from 1951.

To those who think modern art could be done by a child, I urge you to keep going to exhibits, reading about it, and just exposing yourself to it as much as you can - sooner or later you'll start to like it, and I can't tell you why you'll start to like it; only that you will. Just have an open mind - I still don't know why I like modern art (yes, a child *could* spray-paint a canvas all black, although I assure you the modern masters can paint just as realistically as you ask them to), but I really do enjoy it, and I think you will, also. I will add that I have no ability to discern what's worth $5 from $5 million, but I still just ... like it.

Brian, do you have a better explanation than mine?

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my favorite American painter of any era

Fascinating - you're the first person I've ever heard say this (not that this topic has presented itself very often in my life). How come? Why not Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, or Mark Rothko?

I guess the mid-1950s were heady times for Abstract Expressionism, but Kelly (I'm assuming) was in the New York school - there was an entire movement in California that is very distinct (Leonard Edmondson, for example, was a printmaker whose works I enjoy - nobody would confuse this amoeba-like woodblock with Kelly).

Kelly's use of color, geometry, and *restraint* were simply brilliant - not knowing much about him at all, I'll bet he could have scored in the 700s on the math SATs.

Kelly and Roy Lichtenstein hold a special place in my heart because they were both born in the same year as my parents.

As with many other subjects, I may talk a good game, but I really don't know all that much about 20th-century American art, and it's pretty shameful that I don't.

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Fascinating - you're the first person I've ever heard say this (not that this topic has presented itself very often in my life). How come? Why not Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, or Mark Rothko?

Kelly had a sense of humor, a quality that allowed him to bridge the gap between abstract expressionism and pop art without being either one.

tumblr_nl29vnWghM1u579vko1_500.jpg

This has always struck me as a hilarious juxtaposition - on the left is Kelly's "Yellow over Dark Blue" (1964-65), on the right is Rothko's "Yellow, Blue and Orange" (1955). Rothko was noted for the deeply spiritual aim of his work, he said "I'm not an abstractionist. I'm not interested in the relationship of color or form or anything else. I'm interested only in expressing basic human emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on." Kelly's painting was an homage, but also effectively declared Rothko full of shit, showing that painting a big yellow square over a blue rectangle is all about an aesthetic relationship of color and form.

There's a great piece on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum - "Blue on White" (1961). It obviously recalls Matisse's cutouts, but all the tension is in the framing of the piece and the way it pushes against the edges, ballooning far too close to the frame and even touching it along the bottom edge. It purposefully takes away any sacred quality the piece may have gained with more breathing room and enlists the thin line of the frame as part of the drawn form, while most artists ignore the edges of the canvas and hope the frame isn't considered.

CXRsfcOWwAEMn6V.jpg

Some of my favorite Kelly pieces are his shaped canvases. There's an irreducibility to them, and while other painters plumbed depth of color in monotone pieces, Kelly used flat color and captured movement with the shape of the canvas itself.

mnu_kelly_851.jpg

Kelly also created amazing work for 60+ years - most great artists have a pretty short prime, but some of the work Kelly created in the past decade has been his best, continuing the themes he's developed for his whole career without being retreads. A couple years ago The Phillips has a show of Kelly's panel paintings from 2004-2009 and they were fantastic - tense and well considered, carrying a range of possibilities through some very basic geometry.

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There's a great piece on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum - "Blue on White" (1961). It obviously recalls Matisse's cutouts, but all the tension is in the framing of the piece and the way it pushes against the edges, ballooning far too close to the frame and even touching it along the bottom edge. It purposefully takes away any sacred quality the piece may have gained with more breathing room and enlists the thin line of the frame as part of the drawn form, while most artists ignore the edges of the canvas and hope the frame isn't considered.

CXRsfcOWwAEMn6V.jpg

If I could Like this post 10 times, I would. You say "tension" - this is a baby with an umbilical cord, isn't it.

I have a feeling you would *love* the Soviet (reluctantly Soviet) painter, Kazimir Malevich - talk about a sense of humor ... but he had to repress it out of political fear - I'm going to write a post about him one day because he was one of the greatest twentieth-century artists in the world, and his full-circle story is amazing - and inspirational.

"By removing the content from my work, I shifted the visual reality of painting to include the space around it."
 
Classical musicians know that the silence between the notes is every bit as important as the notes themselves.
 
Insert Al Dente's comment about John Cage here:
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I have a feeling you would *love* the Soviet (reluctantly Soviet) painter, Kazimir Malevich - talk about a sense of humor ... but he had to repress it out of political fear - 

of course I'm a Malevich fan - and Ellsworth Kelly's work is deeply indebted to him. He blazed a lot of paths that took another 50 years for others to explore.

Here's a good piece from Smithsonian Magazine on Kelly's import and influence:

12/28/15 - "Why Ellsworth Kelly Was a Giant in the World of American Art" by Alex Palmer on smithsonian.com

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You are my people.

Visiting my in-laws when I saw the Kelly obit and my gasp of sadness was met with, "Who???" from everyone.

Sigh...

This is one forum (of several) that I wish would become more populated, as this is a subject near-and-dear to me.

Kelly didn't hit me as hard as Nimoy or Bowie (both of which were pretty devastating, as they played significant roles in my developmental years), but he hit me hard enough.

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This is one forum (of several) that I wish would become more populated, as this is a subject near-and-dear to me.

Kelly didn't hit me as hard as Nimoy or Bowie (both of which were pretty devastating, as they played significant roles in my developmental years), but he hit me hard enough.

I should post the picture I took of my grocery cart after Nimoy's death.  It was chocolate, wine and more chocolate.

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