You don’t have to look far to find work by Ellsworth Kelly in North Texas. The renowned painter and sculptor, known for his geometric, brightly colored works, died over the weekend at home in Spencertown, New York. He was 92.
“Dallas Morning News” Art Critic Rick Bretell rounded up the artist’s contributions to institutions in our area:
“When the Dallas Museum of Art opened in 1984, one of the most important commissions that inaugurated its new downtown building was a major Kelly sculpture in landscape architect Dan Kiley’s wonderful sculpture garden. It has the usual laconic title familiar to students of modern art, Untitled. The DMA also has a major painting, 1980′s Red Panel, and a group of prints by Kelly. There are also major works by Kelly in Dallas private collections, including nine works in the Marguerite and Robert Hoffman collection promised to the DMA.
“Kelly was the only painter commissioned to work with I.M. Pei on a huge-scale work for the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, 1988′s Blue Green Black Red: The Dallas Panels, and the Nasher Sculpture Center has an important bronze sculpture from 1986. Fort Worth doesn’t lag far behind, with a major early painting from 1963, Curved Red on Blue, and a 1986 triptych: Dark Blue Panel, Dark Green Panel, Red Panel, both at the Modern Art Museum.”
NPR reports that Kelly started his career in France, but not the way most artists do:
“He was in a U.S. Army uniform during World War II, serving in a special unit made mostly of artists. Their job was to fool the Germans into thinking there were more Allied forces than there actually were.
Kelly told NPR in 2007 they did it partly by building fake tanks and trucks from wood and burlap.
‘But later they were made in rubber — inflatable and they looked like the real thing,’ he said.”
Kelly returned to New York at a time when Abstract Expressionism was all the rage. But that style wasn’t for him. Critic Holland Cotter in “New York Times”
“Mr. Kelly was as adamant about what his art was not as about what it was. Unlike the work of the early European modernists he admired, it was not about social theory. It was not about geometry or abstraction as ends in themselves. And although he derived many of his shapes from the natural world, his art was not about nature.
“My paintings don’t represent objects,” he said in 1996. “They are objects themselves and fragmented perceptions of things.”