ELLSWORTH KELLY Schwarz & Weiss

HAUS DER KUNST, MUNICH | OCTOBER 7, 2011 – JANUARY 22, 2012

Installation view, Ellsworth Kelly, Haus der Kunst, Munich. Photo credit: Wilfried Petzi. Courtesy Haus der Kunst.

Here is a chance to walk through an entire strand of Ellsworth Kelly’s long and productive career—not yet definitive, because (at 88) he is still adding to it. This is a knock-out exhibition in which, as the title makes clear, all works are in black and white. Taking self-expression out of the equation as early as possible, and acting as a conduit between material form and insight, Kelly’s work displays a lack of interest in depicting himself or his emotions, in direct contrast to the over-scaled 1930s architecture of the Haus der Kunst. A Kelly exhibition was not what Mr. Hitler had in mind for such abundant space. Present are the early collages, photographs, and constructions made during Kelly’s stay in France between 1949 and 1954, which exemplify the artist’s method of random composition and transfer. After many years of single- and two-panel paintings, “Black Curves” (2011) brings us up to date. Isolating a particular perceptual event, Kelly gives it form, adjusting it as little as possible while rendering the source impossible to discern.
Consequently, the forms are independent of their origin, though they don’t look like formal exercises either. However reduced, the reduction is not felt as being for its own sake. The paintings materialize things known but not noticed.

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David Rhodes