Ellsworth Kelly's recent paintings and sculptures reflect his thirty-year exploration of the nature of form and define new fields of inquiry in that exploration. In these works his colors have narrowed to neutral grays, blues, and rusts, or to the binary opposition of black and white—a definitive departure from the vivid tones of his earlier paintings. These subdued colors magnify the paradoxical subtleties of his forms in both canvas and steel. Form has assumed a mysterious magnitude of expression in the pieces exhibited here, tying together the mediums of sculpture and painting and transforming both.
Few American artists have equaled Kelly's ability to produce major works of both sculpture and painting, and seldom have different mediums appeared so integrally related within the scope of one aesthetic quest. Born in 1923 in Newburgh, New York, the young Kelly worked and exhibited in Paris, where he was recognized and appreciated by only a handful of his countrymen. He early encountered the work of such artists as Jean Arp and Francis Picabia, and the Dada and Surrealist movements—influences that cannot be ignored despite the austerity of his art. His first major museum exhibition was in the Museum of Modern Art's "Sixteen Americans" in 1959, and his recent retrospective at that institution has underscored his eminent position among contemporary artists.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is pleased to display these seven sculptures and fourteen paintings, which represent Kelly's achievement during the past five years. This catalogue reproduces each of these twenty-one works, accompanied by an informative discussion by Elizabeth C. Baker, editor of Art in America.