Ellsworth Kelly - Contemporary Art Part I New York Wednesday, May 11, 2011 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Sidney Janis Gallery, New York; Galerie Françoise Mayer, Brussels; Blum Helman Gallery Inc., New York; Roger and Myra Davidson, Toronto; Collection of Ginny Williams, Denver (acquired from the above); Sale: Christie’s, New York, Post-War and Contemporary Art (Evening Sale), May 14, 2003, lot 36; Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, Paintings and Sculpture by Ellsworth Kelly, October 7 -November 2, 1968, no. 4; Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, Selections from the Roger and Myra Davidson Collection, January 17 - March 22, 1987, p. 33 (illustrated in color and on the cover); Santa Fe, Laura Carpenter Gallery, Ellsworth Kelly: Painting and Sculpture, June-July 1992; New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art; London, Tate Gallery, and Munich, Haus der Kunst, Ellsworth Kelly: A Retrospective, October 18, 1996-January 1998, pl. 53 (illustrated in color)

  • Literature

    J. Coplans, Ellsworth Kelly, New York, 1971, no. 196; E.C. Goosen, Ellsworth Kelly, New York, 1973, p. 89 (illustrated); D. Waldman, ed., Ellsworth Kelly: A Retrospective, New York, 1996, no. 53

  • Catalogue Essay

    Ellsworth Kelly has been pioneering Hard-edge, Color Field painting since the late 1940s. Kelly’s influential practice, which includes painting, drawing and sculpture, reveals the expressive and spiritual qualities of geometric, monochromatic, planes of color. For the past sixty years, Ellsworth Kelly’s work has defined the relationship between space and subjectivity, removing the pictorial barrier between subject and ground. As Kelly asserts “I have worked to free shape from its ground, and then to work the shape so that it has a definite relationship to the space around it, so that it has a clarity and a measure within itself of its parts (angles, curves, edges, and mass), and so that, with color and tonality, the shape finds its own space and always demands its freedom and separateness” (M. Grynsztejn, “Clear-Cut: The Art of Ellsworth Kelly,”
    Ellsworth Kelly in San Francisco, San Francisco, 2002, p. 9).

    Early in his artistic development, Kelly recognized that color has physical, practical implications. In 1943, Kelly entered the United States Army, serving in the Engineers Camouflage Battalion. At this time, Kelly began to recognize how color can be used to both cloak and reveal, embodying notions of space, content and implied meaning. Through this lens, form and content became physically and theoretically dependent on each other. As Kelly states “The form of my painting is the content. My work is made of single or multiple panels: rectangle, curved or square. I am less interested in marks on the panels than the “presence” of the panels themselves” (K. Stiles and P.H. Selz, “Notes of 1969,” Theories and documents of contemporary art: a sourcebook of artists’ writings,” Los Angeles, 1996).

    Green White marks the debut appearance of the triangle in Ellsworth Kelly’s oeuvre, a shape that reoccurs throughout his distinguished career. Green White is composed of two distinct, shaped monochromatic canvases, which are installed on top of each other: a large-scale, inverted, green trapezoid is positioned vertically above of a smaller white triangle, forming a new geometric
    composition. Independently, each shape is recognizable by its own inherent structure, however, when combined, the two shapes unite, dynamically shifting and visually transforming into a new geometric entity.

    Although his practice may appear mathematically rigid, Kelly has always allowed serendipity and intuition to inform his practice. For example, after spotting a woman wearing a green and white scarf in Central Park, he spent the afternoon carefully recording every detail, ensuring he could recreate its exact proportion and palette. This encounter famously served as the point of departure for Kelly’s pivotal painting Jersey (1958), currently in the collection of the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.

    While it is true that Kelly was influenced by Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt and Mark Rothko, his practice was equally informed by the European sensibilities of Jean Arp, Sophie Taeuber-Arp and Henri Matisse, all of whom Kelly studied during his formative years in Paris at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts (1949-1952). The
    Abstract Expressionists’ ability to transform painting into a transcendent experience, combined with Arp and Matisse’s poetic conception of space and spirituality, allowed Kelly to create a new visual vocabulary seeking “not to depict or symbolize an aspect of reality, but to create new forms that ‘you haven’t seen before’: presuppositionless forms on a par with real things, that would themselves be real, as definitive as the leaf or shadow that served as their inspiration” (M. Grynsztejn, “Clear-Cut: The Art of Ellsworth Kelly,” Ellsworth Kelly in San Francisco, San Francisco, 2002, p. 11). In addition to the visual arts, Kelly became influenced by the aesthetic and physical properties of Paris’ Modern, Romanesque and Byzantine architecture.

    One often recounted source of inspiration occurred when Kelly encountered a pair of monumental windows at the Musée d’Art Moderne. The exhibition itself was of no interest to Kelly, rather the shape, form and implied meaning of the windows served as inspiration. Kelly recounts: “I noticed that the large windows between the paintings interested me more than the art exhibited…from then on, painting as I had known it was finished for me. Everywhere I looked, everything I saw, became something to be made, and it had to be made exactly as it was, with nothing added. I could take from everything; it all belonged to me: a glass roof of a factory with its broken and patched panes, lines of a road map, the shape of a scarf on a woman’s head, a fragment of Le Corbusier’s Swiss pavilion, a corner of a Braque painting, paper fragments in the street.” Everyday shapes, forms and lines now served as the impetus for Kelly’s visual vernacular. Life could now be refined to spatial constructions of meaning. Kelly could have “color suggest mass and be both figure and ground ... Instead of regarding the canvas as a field of action, as the Abstract Expressionists did, Kelly wanted his work to function as an object that relates to the wall, to the room, to architecture” (D. Waldman, Ellsworth Kelly, New York, 1997, p. 29).

  • Artist Biography

    Ellsworth Kelly

    American • 1923 - 2015

    Acting as a vital contributor to the Abstract movement, Ellsworth Kelly focused on color and composition. Becoming inspired by ornithology and the bold coloring of birds, Kelly used a two or three pigment color palette — painted flatly and geometrically — on his canvases. While living in Paris, the artist used Monet's late works as a base for experimenting with expressionism and serial work

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Green White

Oil on canvas.
Two joined panels, 71 x 141 in. (180.3 x 358.1 cm.)
Initialed and dated “EK 1968” on the overlap; also signed and dated again “KELLY 1968” on the stretcher.

$3,000,000 - 4,000,000 

Sold for $3,554,500

Contemporary Art Part I

12 May 2011
New York