During his expatriate years in France (1948-54), Ellsworth Kelly developed the visual strategies that would make him one of the most important artists of our era. This is most evident in his French drawings, here presented thoroughly for the first time, together with a searching commentary by noted scholar Yve-Alain Bois. In drawing, Kelly evolved four strategies for making art: transfer, chance, modular grid, and monochrome panel. His goal was to develop an alternative to traditional composition at once radically inventive and stubbornly personal. This bi-lingual German/English catalog presents an intimate view of the process of artistic conception.
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Yve-Alain Bois, the Harvard art historian, had an idea. He believed that through drawing, Ellsworth Kelly evolved "four different strategies for making art: chance, the transfer, the modular grid, and the monochrome panel, all of which served the overriding goal of developing an alternative to traditional composing that would be both radically inventive and stubbornly impersonal." So begins this thoughtfully conceived and beautifully produced catalog for an exhibition organized by the Harvard University Art Museums and the Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Switzerland, that covers only an early, seven-year period in the life of this prolific abstract painter.
Bois's essay is filled with remarkable insights into Kelly's drawings and working methods during his sojourn in post-World War II France. Bois has an artist's mind: he refers to "the painter's attention to visual noise, to the 'insignificant' leftovers in the visual realm." And he explains what a rare, almost impossible luxury this "estrangement" from the world would have been for ordinary French citizens during reconstruction.
Brilliant and nourishing though Bois's essay is, however, it is appropriately upstaged by the impeccably reproduced drawings, collages, and paintings on paper, which leave the reader breathless. These studies are like fireworks: they explode in dozens of directions, putting the viewer in mind of artists as disparate as Barnett Newman, Howard Hodgkin, Henri Matisse, David Hockney, Richard Diebenkorn, Mark Rothko, and Brice Marden. The book opens with the typical young artist's drawing of his work table, then quickly shifts to the most extraordinary seaweed drawing, with a second one in gouache, giving pause to any reader who thought Kelly's much later leaf drawings fell from nowhere. There are, of course, the colored grids (Spectrum Colors Arranged by Chance), the cut-up grids such as the sketch for Cite, a study for Yellow on Yellow, and nearly 200 other color plates, all reproduced with the kind of accuracy that allows you to imagine you've held them in your hands.
This is a book that even before it's opened looks as if it might be essential, especially for artists. Hundreds of pages later, that first impression is amply confirmed. --Peggy Moorman
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Book Description Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge MA, 1999. Cloth Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. NO FINER COPY EXISTS. // NEW BOOK and DJ, both in GIFT-quality MINT/ PRISTINE condition, and with new Mylar protection. Clothbound Hardcover. 263 pages, illustrated throughout. // You want this book. // Excellent customer service. We cherish our books and pack them with Golden Rule care for transit, and ship within 24 hours. // Quarto. Bookseller Inventory # 004990