Ellsworth Kelly was born in 1923 in Newburgh, New York. Kelly attended the Pratt Institute from 1941-42, an education interrupted by his induction into the Army on New Years Day of 1943. After his discharge, the G.I. Bill provided the financial support Kelly needed to study at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston from 1946-7. This funding also allowed him the opportunity to attend classes at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris. These two unique experiences exposed Kelly to cities rich with culture and artistic resources. His exercises in observation and drawing at the museums in Paris allowed him to establish his aesthetic and earn his first solo show at Galerie Arnaud in 1951.
Kelly remained abroad until 1954, when he returned to New York as a result of a review he read of an Ad Reinhardt show to which he felt his work and his aesthetic very much related. His first show was in 1956 at Betty Parsons’ gallery, where it was received with comments about its European ‘flair’. 1957 proved to be a key moment in Kelly’s career: along with a second show at Betty Parsons, he was given his first public commission for Philadelphia’s Penn Center and was included in the Whitney’s “Young America 1957” show. One of thirty invited artists, Kelly stood out for his use of more than one panel or canvas for one piece. This trend of manipulating raw materials can be seen throughout his oeuvre, especially in his “shaped canvases”.
April 28 - June 8, 2013
Essay by Pepe Karmel