The centerpiece of ‘Ellsworth Kelly,’ painted aluminum ‘Blue Angle’ at Matthew Marks Gallery
At 92 years old, you would expect someone like Ellsworth Kelly, long-established as a forerunner of the minimalist, hard-edge painting, and Color Field painting schools, to slow down, perhaps thinking about retirement. But with enough works created over the past two years to fill all four Chelsea spaces of Matthew Marks Gallery on West 22nd and 24th Streets, that didn’t seem to be the case. Kelly’s self-titled exhibit at the gallery closed on Friday, but some of his earlier works are still on display at the nearby Whitney Museum‘s inaugural exhibit, ‘America is Hard to See.’
Kelly works in one of the most famous art styles known to modern audiences both in and out of the contemporary art scene. His paintings and sculptures are the kind that would show up in the background of a movie scene to convey the extreme wealth of its owner; high-concept, purely aesthetic installations taking up entire walls to themselves. They are the kind of pieces that art cynics point to with the popular but always irritating “How is that art? Anyone could have done that.”
Skepticism might be reasonable here. Kelly’s sculptures and paintings, most notably the ones that showed in Matthew Marks have names like ‘Blue Angle’ or ‘Brown Black White.’ Color, solid, flat, some how final, seems one of his primary tools, shape the other. It is art at possibly its most simple. We as an art-consuming society have moved steadily away from skills as a measure of artistic value. This is a world where someone like hyperrealist sculptor Tony Matelli, whose painstakingly painted silicone models of human bodies are both uncannily accurate and completely disturbing, can share the stage with dots on a canvas or a 40-ton block of corten steel. Art is now more concept than complexity, a fact that Kelly, who has been exhibiting similar works at Matthew Marks for the past two decades, must know well
Kelly’s self-titled exhibit includes a number of color-blocked paintings, sometimes irregularly shaped or attached to other canvases for a relief effect, as well as a few aluminum sculptures, the first ones he has created in thirty years. Kelly, who lives in upstate New York, has produced over 150 solo exhibitions since the 1950s.
Next, read about 6 Interesting Discoveries from a Secret Audio Tour of Chelsea and its Galleries. Get in touch with the author @jinwoochong.