June 18, 2013 - Phillips Collection - Ellsworth Kelly
June 18, 2013

Ellsworth Kelly

Ellsworth Kelly, Green Blue Black Red, 2007. Oil on canvas, four panels, 345 x 217 inches. Private collection. Photo: Jerry L. Thompson. Courtesy the artist. © Ellsworth Kelly.

Ellsworth Kelly
Panel Paintings 2004–2009
22 June–22 September 2013

The Phillips Collection
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This summer, The Phillips Collection presents its first exhibition of works by acclaimed American painter, sculptor, and printmaker Ellsworth Kelly (b. 1923). Panel Paintings 2004–2009 features seven works consisting of two to four canvases of solid color. Coinciding with the artist’s 90th birthday year, Ellsworth Kelly: Panel Paintings 2004–2009 is on view from June 22 through September 22, 2013. 

With a prolific career spanning over 60 years, Ellsworth Kelly is internationally renowned for his explorations of form, color, and space. Created between 2004 and 2009, the multi-panel works in the exhibition were selected specifically for the Phillips by the artist in consultation with Phillips Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Vesela Sretenović. The large-scale rectilinear works that blur the boundaries between painting and sculpture seem to hover on the wall, playing with light and shadow and dramatically engaging with space. 

Kelly’s monochromatic paintings are abstracted reflections of his immediate surroundings. The artist’s focus on color and shape developed in the late 1940s when he was in Paris, immersed in the city’s historic art and architecture while interacting with modern art pioneers including Constantin Brancusi and Alexander Calder. Inspiration for Kelly’s panel paintings ranges from Romanesque and Byzantine art to Henri Matisse’s cutouts and Jean Arp’s collages. Painted with oil on canvas, each work offers a precise configuration that balances color, positive and negative space, and the relationship of work to wall. The layering of shapes accentuates the sculptural quality, and the intense colors—from brilliant yellow to velvety black—make the works appear to vibrate.

The Phillips Collection commissioned Kelly to create a site-specific sculpture for the museum’s Hunter Courtyard, opened in 2006. Mounted at an angle, Untitled is a large-scale bronze curve, floating weightlessly on the courtyard’s west wall. 

About the artist
Ellsworth Kelly was born in 1923 in Newburgh, New York. He rose to art-world stardom in New York City in the 1950s and in 1970 moved to rural Spencertown, New York. Major retrospectives of his work have been organized by the Museum of Modern Art (1973), the Whitney Museum of American Art (1982), and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1996). Kelly’s art has been featured in countless solo exhibitions at museums around the world, such as the Haus der Kunst, Munich; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Philadelphia Museum of Art; and Fondation Beyeler, Basel. His works are in the collections of the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Tate Modern, London; and National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Kelly has created commissions for the UNESCO headquarters in Paris; Lincoln Park in Chicago; the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.; and the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. He continues to work in his studio and exhibit widely, with exhibitions in 2013 at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Organization
The exhibition is organized by The Phillips Collection. Generous support is provided by Fenner Milton. A 44-page color catalogue accompanies the exhibition.

 

Ellsworth Kelly at the Phillips Collection
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