At the end of 1964, Ellsworth Kelly returned to Paris for a solo exhibit of his paintings at the Galerie Maeght. While there, he took advantage of the fact that the owners of the gallery were also publishers of artist books and fine art prints. He made his first significant foray into the medium of prints and multiples with two series—Suite of Twenty-Seven Color Lithographs and Suite of Plant Lithographs. Thus began Kelly’s lifelong relationship with lithography.
Complementing this collection of lithographic prints in the exhibition are two large-scale paintings. White over Blue was commissioned for Montreal’s Expo 67 and originally hung inside the geodesic dome created by Buckminster Fuller for the fair. At nearly 30 feet long, the work blurs the line between painting and sculpture, as the white plane literally floats off the wall and over the surface of its blue counterpart. To show the artist’s working method for White over Blue, three preliminary sketches are on loan from the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation. The earliest of these, a relief collage, dates to a decade prior to the painting’s creation. It illustrates how the artist was already envisioning an object that was not quite painting, not quite sculpture. Scale is established in the second of the three sketches, while the third reiterates the fact that Kelly never deviated from his original color scheme of “white over blue.”
Bringing two lithographic suites and two paintings together, “Line & Color: The Nature of Ellsworth Kelly” demonstrates the way in which the artist flattens the world around him. Whether featuring plants or colorful shapes, Kelly’s oeuvre cements him as one of the progenitors of modernism.
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