November 16, 2012
Kazan, Director of Public Information
608.257.0158 x 237 or firstname.lastname@example.org
H. Axsom, Curator
608.257.0158 x 226 or email@example.com
High-resolution image files are
available to the media.
“Ellsworth Kelly Prints”
At the Madison Museum of
January 19-April 28, 2013
WI--For over fifty years, Ellsworth Kelly
(b. 1923) has been recognized as a leading American painter and sculptor. His
art of emphatic form and vibrant color--lyrical and serenely self-confident--is
a finely wrought distillation of shapes observed in nature. Kelly’s prints, no
less than his paintings and sculptures, have their own distinctive voice. They
register equally important aspects of his vision: intimacy, delicacy, and
ethereality. Integral to the artist’s vision as a whole, they bear witness to
Kelly’s commitment to the phenomenal world.
Kelly Prints, a major retrospective exhibition of the artist’s achievements
in printmaking, will be on view at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art from January 19-April 28, 2013. The public is invited to a special MMoCA
Nights opening celebration on Friday, January 18, from 6:30 to 9 pm. The evening will feature a dialogue from 7 to 8 pm in the museum’s lecture hall between MMoCA
director Stephen Fleischman, the museum’s curator Richard H. Axsom, and Jordan
D. Schnitzer; works in the exhibition are drawn from the collection of Mr.
Schnitzer and his family foundation.
Born in Newburgh,
New York, in 1923, Ellsworth Kelly studied
at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn until he was drafted
into the U.S. Army during World War II. The majority of his time in military
service was spent in Europe. From 1948 until 1954, he
lived in Paris, where he absorbed
the influence of Constantin Brancusi, Jean Arp, and Alexander Calder, among
other School of Paris
masters. Early in his stay in France,
Kelly abandoned figuration in favor of simple geometric shapes in brilliant
color, a visual language he has refined throughout his career.
Kelly has deployed his dynamic
geometry of squared, angled, and curved forms to great effect in his graphic
editions. Since the early 1960s, he has created more than 330 editions, over
one hundred of which are represented in Ellsworth
Kelly Prints. His first published editioned print was Red Blue, a screenprint from 1964. The curved red shape is an
optical punch against a bright blue ground. Its parabolic edge, with great finesse
and precision, runs tangent to the right side of the blue rectangle. Although Kelly
has explored screenprinting and intaglio methods, lithography is his medium. One
of his earliest lithographs, Red-Orange
Yellow Blue is from a series published in 1970 by the renowned Los
Angeles workshop Gemini G.E.L. An angled stack of
rhombuses in primary colors are in perfect balance with the rectangular white
Kelly’s rendering of botanical
subjects created with a lithographic crayon, along with his plant drawings in
ink and pencil, also show the artist as one of the great draftsman of our
times. In spontaneous line drawings, he captures the essence of plants,
flowers, and fruits. The plant drawings are intimately connected to his abstract
work—both in their simplicity of line and shape, and as a declaration of his reverence
for nature. Kelly has called his plant drawings a “bridge” to his first
abstract paintings and all of the work that followed. This connection can readily
be seen in Grape Leaves III (1974), in which four drawn leaves,
detached from their stems, are silhouetted in black. The resulting shapes are
both representational and abstract.
Over a period of more than fifty
years, Kelly has elaborated upon his plant lithographs and his family of
geometric shapes in the abstract prints, enriching the latter with new rectilinear
and curvilinear forms. He has also incorporated texture and gesture into his
abstraction, drawing upon his interest in chance and also in the surfaces of both
his weathering-steel and wood sculptures.
Despite the association of Kelly’s abstraction
with bold color, black has featured importantly in his paintings, sculptures,
and prints. Black is taken to epic proportions in the artist’s Rivers series (2002-2005). It is composed
of four works: The River and River II, each printed on paper and mounted
on aluminum panels bolted a few inches off the wall; The River (State), which is printed on paper alone and traditionally
framed; and the States of the River—each of the eight lithographic plates used
for the series printed individually and given the name of a major world river.
In the Rivers series, Kelly,
remarkably, merged the large scale of his paintings, the sculptural concerns of
his reliefs, an interest in gestural surfaces, the techniques and poetics of
chance, and his profound and abiding relationship to nature. In its conception,
manufacture, and expressive richness, it marks an important achievement in the
history of the modern print.
Ellsworth Kelly Prints was organized by
the Los Angeles County
Art Museum, where it was on view (as
part of Ellsworth Kelly: Prints and Paintings)
January 22-April 22, 2012.
Now traveling in a national tour, which includes the Portland Art Museum (June
16-September 16, 2012) and the Detroit Institute of Arts (beginning in May
2013), the exhibition coincides with the publication of The Prints of Ellsworth Kelly, an updated and revised two-volume catalogue
raisonné of the artist’s prints, prepared by Richard H. Axsom, curator at the
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.
Support for the exhibition and
related educational and outreach programs has been made possible by a grant
from the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation.
Hours at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art are
Tuesday–Thursday (noon–5 pm); Friday (noon–8 pm); Saturday (10 am–8 pm); and Sunday (noon–5 pm). The museum
is closed on Mondays.
Admission to exhibitions at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art
is free of charge. MMoCA is supported through memberships and through generous
contributions and grants from individuals, corporations, agencies, and
foundations. Important support is also generated through auxiliary group
programs; special events; rental of the museum’s lobby, lecture hall, and
rooftop garden; and sales through the Museum Store.
Director of Public Information
Madison Museum of
227 State Street
Madison, WI 53703
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