Spectrum II
Ellsworth Kelly

Ellsworth Kelly

1923 - 2015

Ellsworth Kelly was an American painter, sculptor, and printmaker associated with hard-edge painting, Color field painting and minimalism. His works demonstrate unassuming techniques emphasizing line, color and form, similar to the work of John McLaughlin and Kenneth Noland. Kelly often employed bright colors. He lived and worked in Spencertown, New York.

After being abroad for six years Kelly's French was still poor and he had sold only one painting. In 1953 he was evicted from his studio and he returned to America the following year.

He had become interested after reading a review of an Ad Reinhardt exhibit, an artist whose work he felt his work related to. Upon his return to New York, he found the art world "very tough." Although Kelly is now considered an essential innovator and contributor to the American art movement, it was hard for many to find the connection between Kelly's art and the dominant stylistic trends. In May 1956 Kelly had his first New York City exhibition at Betty Parsons' gallery. His art was considered more European than was popular in New York at the time. He showed again at her gallery in the fall of 1957. Three of his pieces: Atlantic, Bar, and Painting in Three Panels, were selected for and shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art's exhibit, "Young America 1957". His pieces were considered radically different from the other twenty-nine artists' works. Painting in Three Panels, for example, was particularly noted; at the time critics questioned his creating a work from three canvases. For instance, Michael Plante said that, more often than not, Kelly's multiple-panel pieces were cramped because of installation restrictions, which reduced the interaction between the pieces and the architecture of the room.

Kelly eventually moved away from Coenties Slip, where he had sometimes shared a studio with fellow artist and friend Agnes Martin, to the ninth floor of the high-rise studio/co-op Hotel des Artistes at 27 West 67th Street.

Kelly left New York City for Spencertown in 1970 and was joined there by his partner, photographer Jack Shear, in 1984. From 2001 until his death Kelly worked in a 20,000-square-feet studio in Spencertown reconfigured and extended by the architect Richard Gluckman; the original studio had been designed by Schenectady-based architects Werner Feibes and James Schmitt in exchange for a site-specific painting Kelly created for them. Kelly and Shear moved in 2005 to the residence they shared until the painter's death, a wood-clad Colonial house built around 1815. Shear serves as the director of the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation. In 2015, Kelly gifted his building design concept for a site of contemplation to the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas in Austin. Titled Austin, the 2,715-square-foot stone building-which features colored glass windows, a totemic wood sculpture and black-and-white marble panels-is the only building Kelly designed and is his most monumental work. Austin, which Kelly designed thirty years prior, opened in February 2018.

Kelly died in Spencertown, New York on December 27, 2015, aged 92.

Text courtesy of Wikipedia, 2024