Marking the first museum exhibition devoted solely to the photographs of Ellsworth Kelly, this beautifully designed volume features each photograph in the Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s illuminating presentation of this lesser-known aspect of Kelly’s art. From the late 1940s on, Kelly created an era-defining body of abstract art based on many kinds of visual phenomena he perceived around him. Largely made for himself, Kelly’s photographs record these discoveries in tightly-composed images of nature and architecture that often reverberate with striking sunlight and shadow.
Similar as they may appear, Kelly did not base his paintings, sculpture and works on paper on his photographs. The camera for Kelly was yet one more artistic tool he used to brilliantly transcribe his lived surroundings into an art that, however abstract, always resonated with his subjective experiences of actual, everyday worlds.
Kelly’s rich sensory fascination with such worlds, from shadows on a beachside staircase to the curve of a snowy hillside, courses throughout this handsome book. To those familiar with or new to the artist, these photographs offer a vividly direct chance to see Ellsworth Kelly’s eye and mind at work unlike any other genre in which this groundbreaking artist ever worked.
Born in Newburgh, New York, Ellsworth Kelly (1923–2015) served in France in World War II’s Ghost Army, graduated from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and returned to France from 1948–54. Over the next seven decades, back in New York City and then upstate, Kelly produced an uncompromising body of art that set new standards for the possibilities of abstract art in the 20th century. His work has been the subject of numerous retrospectives the world over and is represented in virtually every major national and international museum.