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Ellsworth Kelly (b. 1923)
HOMAGE TO CHILLIDA
Ellsworth Kelly (b. 1923)

Untitled (EK 692)

Details
Ellsworth Kelly (b. 1923)
Untitled (EK 692)
corten steel
69 x 68½ x ½in. (175.2 x 174 x 1.2cm.)
Executed in 1983, this work is the artist's proof from an edition of one plus an artist's proof
Provenance
Matthew Marks Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2004.
Exhibited
Los Angeles, Margo Leavin Gallery, Ellsworth Kelly, 1984, no. 10 (illustrated in colour, unpaged). This exhibition later travelled to New York, Leo Castelli Gallery.
Marseille, ARCA Centre dArt Contemporain, New York 85, 1985, no. 63.
Paris, Galerie Daniel Templon, Ellsworth Kelly,1986.
Mexico City, Centro Cultural Arte Contemporneo, Leo Castelli y sus artistas: XXX aos de promocin del arte contemporneo, 1987, no. 100.
Bilbao, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Homenaje a Chillida, 2006, p. 460 (illustrated in colour, p. 211).

Lot Essay

'I have wanted 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, amount of mass); and so that, with color and tonality, the shape finds its own space and always demands its freedom and separateness'
(E. Kelly, Ellsworth Kelly, exh. cat., Margo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles and Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, 1984, unpaged).


Ellsworth Kelly's Untitled (EK 692) is a graceful embodiment of the artist's elegant minimalist aesthetic. Executed in 1983, the elegant curves of the rhomboid reflect the artist's confluence of line, form and colour through the soft curvature sweeping alongside the right-hand edge. Radiating with a warmth through its rich mahogany tones, the softened slopes of weathered steel defy the material's industrial origins. Untitled (EK 692) derives its lyricism from its engagement with its environmental surroundings: pivoted on its axis, Kelly balances the rhomboid on a corner, allowing the work to appear as though it were levitating off the wall. Kelly's angling imbues Untitled (EK 692) with a feeling of being suspended in time and space. Of this nuanced calibration Kelly has said, 'a quarter of an inch, a half inch off the angle can make a big difference... My eye is like a gyroscope, it can find the right balance' (E. Kelly, quoted in R. Storr, 'Interview with Ellsworth Kelly', in MoMA, vol. 2, no. 5 June, 1999, p. 7).

Revealing its materiality and physicality through the medium of weathered steel, Untitled is a sculptural counterpoint to the artist's painterly practice and a fitting homage to the artist's friend Eduardo Chillida. Both young, the two artists met by chance in 1949 in the cour carrée of the Louvre, now known as the large patio where architect I.M. Pei constructed his pyramidal museum entrance. As a tribute to the master of material and sculpture, this work from 1983 recalls Chillida's methodology grounded in iron and steel.

Alongside form, colour is the central tenet of Kelly's incredibly powerful output. Representative of a union of these two facets of his practice, the basic materiality of weathered steel has become characteristic of his sculptural practice. Indeed in the 1980s, Kelly gave up painted surfaces, instead choosing unvarnished steel, aluminum or bronze. Kelly was stimulated by the landscape near his studio in Spencertown, New York in the Hudson River Valley, inspiring a series of sculptures on flat planes of weathering steel among other metals and wood. The weathering effect integral to the material dissolves the border between exterior and interior, and paradoxically takes on an organic sensibility in its patina.

In Untitled (EK 692), the artist has translated the fundamental qualities of his monochromatic palette with the tactility of weathered steel. As Kelly said of these works in 1983, 'I have wanted 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, amount of mass); and so that, with color and tonality, the shape finds its own space and always demands its freedom and separateness' (E. Kelly, Ellsworth Kelly, exh. cat., Margo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles and Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, 1984, unpaged). The result of these investigations is the concentration of the artist's experiences rooted in nature into a visually engaging work of pure abstraction: form, color and line.

Kelly's sculpture is an informed departure from his painterly practice, which was rooted in an anti-illusionist ideology that he adopted early in his career. First developed in the 1950s, Kelly's monochrome panels of geometric shapes became almost sculpture in their autonomous existence from the physical constraints of figure and ground. By defining the structure and shape of each surface through colour-matte, uniform, and without gestural nuance-Kelly eliminated any notion of figure and ground and brought his paintings into the sculptural realm of objects. As an extension of this methodology, in Untitled (EK 692) Kelly has ostensibly 'painted' with the material of steel. Indeed for Kelly, the transition between the two mediums is fluid: 'sculpture for me is something I've brought off the wall' (E. Kelly, http:/www.guggenheim.org/new-york/collections/collection-online/artwor k/2075 [accessed 1 May 2013]).

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