Ellsworth Kelly Untitled Eight by Eight to Celebrate the Temporary Contemporary - Print by Ellsworth Kelly
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Ellsworth Kelly
Ellsworth Kelly Untitled Eight by Eight to Celebrate the Temporary Contemporary



"I think that if you can turn off the mind and look only with the eyes, ultimately everything becomes abstract,” said Ellsworth Kelly (1923 - 2015). Kelly’s abstraction is rooted in the real world. His strong sense of form and color has often been tied to his time in the military, affinity for bird watching, and observations of nature. Although simplistic in imagery, Kelly’s work holds a certain tension. "I think what we all want from art is a sense of fixity, a sense of opposing the chaos of daily living,” said Kelly. “This an illusion, of course. Canvas rots. Paint changes color. In a sense, what I've tried to capture is the reality of flux, to keep art an open, incomplete situation, to get at the rapture of seeing." Kelly was a pioneer of Color Field painting and minimalism whose influence extends across the second half the 20th century to the present.This is exemplified by the story behind Kelly’s Untitled (1983), a hand-signed lithograph that was included in the Eight by Eight to Celebrate the Temporary Contemporary suite. The portfolio features artwork by eight prominent artists, and was used as a fundraising vehicle for the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles. The artists who participated were Kelly, Richard Diebenkorn, Sam Francis, David Hockney, Robert Rauschenberg, Niki de Saint Phalle, Jean Tinguely, and Andy Warhol. This iconic collection is a testament to the cultural milieu of the United States in the 1980’s. Untitled (Eight by Eight to Celebrate the Temporary Contemporary) is a Color lithograph on Arches 88 paper, measures 29 x 41 inches, and is from an edition of 250. It is signed and numbered in pencil, lower right. Ellsworth Kelly Untitled (Eight by Eight to Celebrate the Temporary Contemporary), 1983, edition of 250 Color lithograph on Arches 88 paper 29 x 41 in Signed and numbered in pencil, lower right. Printed by Gemini G.E.L., Los Angeles. Published by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. A very good impression. Axsom 201.


  • Dimensions

    H 29 in. x W 41 in.

    H 73.66 cm x W 104.14 cm

  • Gallery location
    Santa Fe, NM
  • Reference number

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About Ellsworth Kelly (Artist)

Ellsworth Kelly was one of the key figures in postwar American art, exercising major influence on the fields of Pop art, minimalism, Color-Field, and hard-edge painting. Widely known for his brightly colored geometric compositions, he was among the first artists, alongside his contemporary Frank Stella, to use irregularly shaped canvases. Although highly abstract, Kelly’s paintings are precise expressions in color and form of his sensory experience of the world. His works, both two- and three-dimensional, are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and displayed at such sites as the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.

Kelly grew up in the town of Newburgh, New York, near the Oradell Reservoir. He was an avid birder as a child and loved the colorful illustrations of naturalist John James Audubon. Encouraged to study art by a high school teacher, he enrolled at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, remaining there until 1943, when he was inducted into the army. During World War II, he served along with scores of other artists, in a unit known as the Ghost Army, where he learned the elements of camouflage while creating ersatz trucks and tanks intended to mislead Axis forces.

When the war was over, Kelly took advantage of the G.I. Bill to study painting at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, drawing inspiration from the museum's collections, and, later, at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, in Paris. While in France, he immersed himself in the varied artistic movements and styles represented there and befriended Americans avant-gardists, such as composer John Cage and choreographer Merce Cunningham, as well as the German-French Surrealist Jean Arp and Romanian sculptor Constantin Brâncuși.

Upon his return to the United States, in 1954, he found himself at odds with the dominant style of the period, Abstract Expressionism, which favored a dynamic and energetic application of paint in a loose manner. Like Stella, Kelly was interested in formal precision and explorations of color. Following an exhibition of his work at the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1956, Kelly’s work was included in the "Young America 1957” show at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

During the 1960s, Kelly played with color and form to tease out and celebrate the tension between a painting’s subject and its background. In one of his most famous works, the 1963 Red Blue Green, for example, two shapes, one red, one blue, both contrast and resonate with a green background that extends to the edge of the canvas on both sides, appearing at moments to be the work’s primary shape. To explore this relationship between form and ground further, Kelly began using nontraditional, shaped canvases, as in the monochromatic 1966 Yellow Piece, from, whose two curved corners draws the eye to the wall behind it, as though the gallery wall itself were part of the composition. A lithograph from the same period, Blue and Orange consists of two shapes in the title’s complementary colors facing off against one another with a tension that makes them appear almost animated.

Kelly made drawings and prints throughout his career, using plants and flowers as his primary source of inspiration. Like his paintings, his drawings tend to be relatively flat in perspective, but they are rarely abstract. This 1993 drawing of an oak leaf is clearly representational, but rendered with very minimal color and line. In the mid-1960s, he produced the series “Suite of Twenty-Seven Lithographs” with the Paris-based Maeght Éditeur.

Later, collaborating with Gemini G.E.L., he created very large-scale works, such as 1988’s Purple/Red/Gray/Orange, which is 18 feet long and might be one of the biggest lithographs ever made. Kelly produced 140 sculptures, including the aluminum White Curves, created for the Fondation Beyeler, in Riehen, Switzerland, in 2002. In his three-dimensional works, as in his paintings, Kelly used form, color and light to play with perceptions of surface and depth, inviting viewers to look closely and see the world in a new way.

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