Ellsworth Kelly (B. 1923)
Untitled (EK683)
signed, numbered and dated '1983 Kelly EK683' (on a plaque affixed to the reverse)
painted aluminium
52½ x 120 x 3½in. (132.7 x 305 x 8.8cm.)
Executed in 1983
Blum Helman, New York.
Roger and Myra Davidson, Toronto.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1992.
Los Angeles, Margo Leavin Gallery, Ellsworth Kelly: Painted Aluminium Wall Sculpture, 1984, no. 1 (illustrated, unpaged).
Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, Selections from the Roger and Myra Davidson Collection, 1987 (illustrated in colour, p. 34).
Further details
This work is registered under number EK683 in the Ellsworth Kelly archives.

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Lot Essay

Ellsworth Kelly's Curves have become some of the most enduring forms of the artist's long and distinguished career. The simplicity of the graceful arc that so eloquently defines Untitled belies the complex and deeply thought out artistic process that is Kelly's signature and which enables him to create incredibly powerful and emotional works out of simple lines, form, and colour. Taking as his starting point two straight lines that radiate out at right-angles from a single point, Untitled is born out of a softly curving arc that sweeps between the two lines and joins them together to form one delightful solid form. In a continuation of his very considered method of working, Kelly carefully utilises the medium of acrylic, along with using an aluminium support, to heighten the crisp, clean aesthetic that he desires.

One of Kelly's main artistic concerns during this period was his pre-occupation with the figure/ground relationship. In 1983, the year he executed Untitled, Kelly published a statement about the need to clarify 'angles, curves and edges,' and then adjust these linear elements into 'colour and tonality' (E. Kelly quoted by C. Ratcliff, 'Ellsworth Kelly's Curves', Ellsworth Kelly, New York, 1996, p. 56). This clarification, he argued, allowed a painting to become almost sculptural in its freedom and separateness and allowed it to take on an existence entirely separate from the constraints of the physicality of figure and ground. Untitled embodies the spirit of this statement, with its inky black surface highlighting the distinctiveness of its form and allowing it the autonomy to free itself from the constraints of traditional painting.

The bold form of Ellsworth Kelly's Untitled is the exuberant physical manifestation of this unique way of seeing. Beginning as a snatched glimpse or perception of something in the physical realm, Kelly then condenses and refines these memories through a series of transitions and distillations that eventually culminate in an image of that carries a singularity of form and a purity of color. The origins for his Curves came in the late 1940s with a trip to the theatre in Paris. Inspired by the graceful arc of the theatre's curtain as it sweeps back behind the Proscenium arch, Kelly produced his first curve, Relief with Blue, from a sketch he made during the performance. By then reducing this source of inspiration to its most fundamental elements Kelly refuses to engage in the abstraction/figuration debate and instead begins to develop his own artistic vocabulary, "In my work, I don't want you to look at the surface; I want you to look at the form, the relationships" (E. Kelly, Matthew Marks Gallery website, (accessed 15 December 2011))

Ellsworth Kelly created works of startling visual intensity, lyrically distilling visual experiences rooted in nature, which he transformed into pure abstraction through flat planes of color. Kelly's art has influenced some of the most significant artistic movements of the past half century, ranging from Color-Field painting and Post-painterly Abstraction to Minimalism and Hard-edge painting, while never formally belonging to any of them. Kelly has described his artistic mission thus: 'I have worked to free shape from its ground, and then to work the shape so that it has a definite relationship to the space around it; so that it has a clarity and a measure within itself of its parts (angles, curves, edges and mass); and so that, with color and tonality, the shape finds its own space and always demands its freedom and separateness' (E. Kelly, quoted in Ellsworth Kelly: Recent Paintings and Sculptures, exh. cat., New York, 1979, p. 7).

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