Ellsworth Kelly has for a lifetime found inspiration for his artwork in what he sees around him: a horizon line, a sloping hillside, the form of an insect, shadows cascading down a staircase. As Kelly described a revelatory passage very early in his career, "Everywhere I looked, everything I saw became something to be made, and it had to be exactly as it was, with nothing added. It was a new freedom: there was no longer the need to compose. The subject was there already made and I could take from everything" (E. Kelly, Notes from 1969, pp. 30-32).
It has been Kelly's task as an artist to free the form that catches his eye from its context and reintroduce it as an isolated objectified shape, distilled to its essence, a unique entity. In this way, the artist redefines the traditional figure/ground relationship. The wall or landscape where the painting or sculpture is situated becomes the ground, and the work of art the figure in it. The source of Kelly's work may be unidentifiable by the viewer, but the essential form is now "seen" for the first time. Ellsworth Kelly's work is about the act of seeing.
Untitled "flying arch" from 1986 is a fresh form in Kelly's oeuvre. However, a precedent for this composition can be found as far back as 1959 in a folded configuration called Pony. As in the Rockers of the early 1960s, the jointed sheer planes of Untitled imply motion, in this case the powerful unfolding of the form off the wall and into the viewer's space. The polished steel surface is luminous, and the exhilarating suggestion of flight belies its weight and mass. The alluring curves play against the sharp angles and the changing light of day casts a moving shadow. One can speculate on Kelly's source of inspiration for this dynamic work--a butterfly, a broken window, the flying buttresses of Notre Dame--but the independent form can now be seen for its own sake, emanating the power and integrity of the perfect form.