Regarded as one of America’s most important abstract artists, as well as one of the most versatile abstractionists, Ellsworth Kelly drew inspiration from nature and the world around him to create his singular style. The diversity and breadth of Kelly’s artistic output over his seven-decade-long career is fully displayed in a new exhibition at the sprawling, picturesque Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Maryland.
One of the largest retrospectives of work by the late gay artist, who died in 2015, Ellsworth Kelly at 100 features 70 works on display, ranging from drawings and paintings to sculptures, collages to photography.
The monographic exhibition includes key works drawn from pivotal periods in his career — several on public view for the first time — and helps to provide a thorough overview of Kelly’s art and artistic approach.
The presentation emphasizes the artist’s lifelong fascination and exploration into the interplay of form, color, line, and space, as well as in pushing against formal boundaries separating artistic styles and genres, and even whole disciplines, notably that between art and architecture.
Many of the works are on loan from the world’s leading museums — D.C.’s National Gallery of Art, New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, Tate, London, Paris’s Centre Pompidou, Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, among them — but the exhibition also draws from Glenstone’s sizable permanent collection, such as seminal early works by Kelly, including Painting for a While Wall, the groundbreaking work from 1952 composed of joined monochromatic panels, and Painting in Three Panels from 1956, a key example of Kelly’s engagement with architecture.
Also on display are works from Kelly’s later iconic Chatham and Spectrum series, as well as selections of the plant drawings Kelly created throughout his career and also of rarely exhibited photographs.
And then there’s Yellow Curve, the first in a series of large-scale floor-based paintings, which will be installed in a custom-designed space encompassing more than 600 square feet. The installation marks the first time Yellow Curve has been viewed by the public since it was conceived for an exhibition in Frankfurt in 1990.
“Ellsworth Kelly’s vision for art can teach us so much about looking deeply at the world and translating what we see into its immediate visual components,” says Emily Wei Rales, director and co-founder of Glenstone. “As a lover of nature, Ellsworth’s quiet and practiced eye created [works] that are as rewarding and challenging on the 50th encounter as they are on the first.”
A fully illustrated companion catalog has been published to accompany the exhibition, which will go on display next year in the Frank Gehry-designed museum Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris followed by the Fire Station in Doha, Qatar.
On view to March 2024 at the Glenstone Museum, 12100 Glen Rd., Potomac. Admission is free. Visit www.glenstone.org or call 301-983-5001.
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