When Ellsworth Kelly upsized in the Hamptons

A new summer show looks back at how the artist found space for his bigger works at the East End of Long Island
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Ellsworth Kelly in Springs, East Hampton, NY 1960
Ellsworth Kelly in Springs, East Hampton, NY 1960

Ellsworth Kelly was aware of the restrictions big city life places on a painter. As our monograph - made in close collaboration with him - explains, during the late 1960s his paintings had grown so large that they could no longer fit inside the elevator at the Hotel des Artistes in Manhattan – where he lived and worked for much of that decade. Kelly eventually began transporting them by resting them on top of the elevator itself.

However, there was a little more space to be found in the Hamptons, on the East End of Long Island, New York State. During the late and early 1960s, Kelly spent his summers in the seaside spot, and a new show, opening at Guild Hall in East Hampton on 11 August, demonstrates how those trips helped him expand his practice.

 

Ellsworth Kelly (1923-2015) Red, White and Blue, 1961 Oil on linen 88 1/4 x 66 9/16 in. (224.2 x 169.1 cm) Whitney Museum of American Art, New York Gift of Betty Parsons 70.1582 © Ellsworth Kelly
Ellsworth Kelly (1923-2015) Red, White and Blue, 1961 Oil on linen 88 1/4 x 66 9/16 in. (224.2 x 169.1 cm) Whitney Museum of American Art, New York Gift of Betty Parsons 70.1582 © Ellsworth Kelly

“While ensconced on the East End during his late thirties and mid-forties, Kelly painted two distinct bodies of work, made a large sculpture, drew plants and flowers, and photographed local farmyard barns,” explains Guild Hall.

The show, curated by NYC critic and journalist Phyllis Tuchman, even suggests that Kelly’s shaped canvases of the late 1960s appear to have been inspired by barns that the painter photographed in Southampton in 1968.

“Then too, his palette became bolder and more assertive, the scale of his canvases grew larger,” Guild Hall’s overview of the show goes on, “and his preoccupation with shaping established him as a pioneer of the times.” As we all know, there's often nothing as  reinvigorating as a much-needed summer break.

 

Ellsworth Kelly

To get a good sized view of these big works and many others, order a copy of our Ellsworth Kelly book here.


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