In 2006 Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane acquired Black Relief over Yellow and Orange by American artist Ellsworth Kelly. It is a perfect example of Kelly's continued investigation into both painting and the real world. In light of this Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane in association with mima (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) is delighted to present an exhibition of drawings by Ellsworth Kelly.
The focus of this solo presentation, personally selected by the artist, is a series of drawings executed between 1954 and 1962. With the support of a US education grant on the G.I. Bill, he travelled in 1948 to Paris, using it as a European base for six years. Returning to New York abstract art meant something altogether different to Ellsworth Kelly than it did to the American abstract artists at that time among them Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning. After six years in France, Kelly's sensibility had been shaped by his admiration for European culture, the Musée du Louvre, the Musée de l'Homme, and the Romanesque churches in Tavant, Saint-Savin and Poitiers.
In 1954 Kelly moved back to the USA in the belief that Abstract Expressionism was not so dominant as to preclude an acceptance of his art. He moved into a loft in Manhattan within a community of artists that included Agnes Martin, James Rosenquist and Kelly's colleague from Paris, Jack Youngerman. In a variety of techniques including ink, graphite, oil paint and collage the twenty-one drawings in this exhibition embody his approach. They illustrate what was for him a prolific and pivotal eight-year period where he was fine-tuning a new model of abstraction based on the extraction of ideas and shapes from everyday life and nature.
"Everywhere I looked, everything I saw became something to be made, and it had to be exactly as it was, with nothing added." Obsessively pursuing a way of framing the world, focused upon line, form and colour Kelly experienced and noted shape and geometry wherever he went; straight lines, horizontals, verticals, diagonals, curves, ellipses and trapezoids. Biomorphic experiments playing one curve off another, or one form to another. Fifty years on, they continue to reward the viewer. They energise the eye, sway you and force a bewildering delight.