Ellsworth Kelly’s photography

Ellsworth-Rebound-1959                   Ellsworth Kelly, Rebound, 1959

“Rebound” was the first Ellsworth Kelly painting I ever saw, at the fabulous, life-changing NGV exhibition Two Decades of American Painting in 1967. I was 16 but I still remember the encounter.

Ellsworth Kelly was an important abstract painter creating stark geometric forms in pure colours. He often played with figure/ground relationships using simple opposing shapes, as in the painting above. 

Despite being an abstract artist, Kelly used photography, the most figurative medium, for research. He started taking photos in 1950 with a borrowed Leica and now New York’s Mathew Marks Gallery is showing his photographs made up until 1982. The show was finalised just before Kelly died last year at 92.

You can see how his artistic vision is continuous between painting and photography, he captures the same sort of shapes and depth illusions as in his paintings..

Everywhere I looked, everything I saw became something to be made, and it had to be made exactly as it was, with nothing added. It was a new freedom; there was no longer the need to compose.”

According to the gallery, Kelly’s photographs “were never part of the process of making a painting or sculpture; they were simply a record of his vision. As such, they convey his enthusiasm for the visible world around him — the compositional possibilities…”

Kelly Hangar Doorway 1977                  Ellsworth Kelly, Hangar Doorway, St. Barthélemy, 1977

Kelly Sidewalk Los Angeles 1978                   Ellsworth Kelly, Sidewalk, Los Angeles, 1978

Kelly Movie Screen 1982                  Ellsworth Kelly, Movie Screen, Waterbury, 1982

Kelly-Roof-St-Martin-77                   Ellsworth Kelly, Roof, St Martins, 1977

You can see the collection of Ellsworth Kelly’s black & white photographs at the Mathew Marks Gallery website.

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