Ellsworth Kelly - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, May 15, 2013 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Provenance

    Sidney Janis Gallery, New York
    Collection of Carter Burden, New York
    Sotheby Parke Bernet Inc., New York, Contemporary Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, May 15 and 16, 1980, lot 529
    Private Collection, Chicago
    Phillips de Pury & Company, New York, Contemporary Art Evening Sale, November 7, 2011, lot 26
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, An Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture by Ellsworth Kelly, October 7 – November 7, 1968, (cover illustration)
    New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, 1969 Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting, December 16, 1969 – February 1, 1970

  • Literature

    J. Coplans, Ellsworth Kelly, 1971, pl. 205 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Each work of art is a fragment of a larger context… . I’ve always been interested in things that I see that don’t make sense out of context, that lead you into something else.”

    Breaking with his contemporaries, Ellsworth Kelly led a trailblazing career, forging an iconic status among the great American Twentieth Century painters; his exultation
    of both shape and color revolutionized the meaning of fgurative expression. Celebrating the visual richness of the world around us while projecting uniquely as artforms, Kelly’s brave canvases aim for our most instinctual familiarities. The present lot, Green Black, 1968, came to life during the beginning of Kelly’s experimentation into two-panel pieces, as he sought to widen both his and the viewer’s chromatic vocabulary by establishing relationships between shape and color. Though most of Kelly’s uses of multiple colors resulted in respective panels for each hue, the present lot defes this trend—its chromatic split is a result of painterly precision rather than an assemblage of canvases. In allowing them to share a panel, Kelly eliminates the distance between the two colors. Besides his virtuosic display of technical brilliance, here Kelly tests us in the art of mental relaxation, as he dares the viewer to release our tendency to see an optical illusion.

    Kelly’s technique employs vivid color felds and allows for dynamic interaction—critically falling into the Hard-edge school of painting. Kelly has historically found inspiration in environmental sources. While Green Black, 1968 can trace its structural and chromatic origin to the natural world, it is wholly nonrepresentational. It is in this elimination of connotations that Kelly yields his profound power: “to objectify color and form and to distill its essence from the world of reality, drawing on human emotion, imagination, and spirit” (D. Waldman. Ellsworth Kelly, New York, 1996, p. 38). Kelly’s painting prompts an equally emotive response from the viewer. It is a technique similar to the work of Mark Rothko; both artists employ the visceral capacity of pure color as a trigger for human reaction.

    The precise division between the pitch black and bright green of Green Black, 1968, displays stark contrast, yet also coexistence. The border shared between both colors lends Kelly’s geometric work a quality of seamless union. Upon closer inspection, the surface allows no hint at its creation; Kelly’s subtle brushstrokes display no overlap of color or traces of his hand, demonstrating his technical prowess. Within the structure of Kelly’s canvas, two painted shapes take on the visual appearance of a two-dimensional cube. The disjointed proportions lead the viewer to question the dimensions of this cube; were it rendered three-dimensionally, would the fgure’s sides be warped to accommodate the curious lengths of its edges? Since Green Black, 1968 exists only in two-dimensional space, this contemplation is lef unresolved.

    The concept of optical illusion contradicts Kelly’s objectives. He aims to produce a pre-Euclidean version of the world, to subtract all modern notions of geometry and intellectual process that inhibit emotional response. To achieve this, he counter intuitively presents shapes familiar to us all. Kelly himself has testifed that his art is not meant to be an end in itself, but to intensify our awareness of the world around the art. The dueling forces of color and structure in Green Black, 1968, in fact suggest mental repose: “It’s not so much about nature, it’s about investigating. I always said you should put your mind to rest and just look. And don’t try to put meaning into
    it.” (Ellsworth Kelly quoted in Ellsworth Kelly: Thumbing Through the Folder—A Dialogue on Art and Architecture with Hans Ulrich Obrist, New York, 2010, p. 6).

  • 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

    View More Works


Green black

oil on canvas
95 x 68 in. (241.3 x 172.7 cm.)
Initialed and dated “EK 68” on the reverse; further signed and dated “Kelly 1968” on the stretcher.

$2,500,000 - 3,500,000 

Sold for $2,965,000

Contact Specialist
Zach Miner
Head of Sale
[email protected]
+1 212 940 1256

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York 16 May 2013 7pm