Recent Acquisition | Ellsworth Kelly’s “Colored Paper Image XII”

Susan Sheehan Gallery
Sep 13, 2019 6:13PM

Colored Paper Image XII, 1976, colored and pressed paper pulp, 46 1/2 x 32 1/2 inches, edition of 20

A key figure in postwar abstraction, Ellsworth Kelly’s art emphasizes pure form and color. In addition to painting and sculpture, printmaking became an important part of Kelly’s oeuvre beginning in the 1960s. His collaborations with printmaker Kenneth Tyler in Mt. Kisco, New York would include the highly experimental paper pulp series Colored Paper Images. When unveiled in 1977, they stood apart from the crisp angles and curves and pristine surfaces for which Kelly was best known. In contrast, Colored Paper Images features somewhat erratic edges, irregular textures, and pools and drifts of color. The twenty-five works in this series were created by ladling colored paper pulp into molds. Kelly created the molds for his curvilinear and rectilinear shapes with flexible metal rulers (illustrated above), masking tape, and acetate. He then used the pressure of the printing press to fuse the colored pulp to a wet sheet of paper resulting in this experimental and refined body of work.

The series retains the basic characteristics of Kelly's work: his vocabulary of geometric shapes, curves, arcs, and his brilliant color. It also continues Kelly’s ongoing dialogue about perceptions of forms. However, the bleed of the wet paper pulp prevents the shapes from achieving a clean edge, while the tactile texture of the handmade paper and pulp introduces a new variability of surface. The unpredictable nature of the materials allows chance to enter into Kelly's highly controlled working process. The result is significant variations between impressions within each edition and because of this, Kelly referred to the works as unique drawings. This highly experimental series inspired other artists to engage in this medium including David Hockney who upon viewing Kelly’s work, set about creating his seminal series in the late 1970s, Paper Pools, with Kenneth Tyler. In 2012, the series formed the exhibition Ellsworth Kelly: Colored Paper Images at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. Works from this series are also included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Metropolitan Museum. This is perhaps owing to Kelly’s pioneering process developed with the series and continually sophisticated investigations into forms within the visible world.

Susan Sheehan Gallery