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Yve-Alain Bois

Ellsworth Kelly, Red with White Relief, 2002, oil on canvas, two joined panels, 81 × 63 × 2 5/8". © Ellsworth Kelly.

MY FIRST THOUGHT, when I got the news of Ellsworth Kelly’s death, was that the world had suddenly gone dimmer. I could no longer expect the gush of joy that always engulfed me when discovering his most recent works in Spencertown, New York. But while it is true that he is no longer here to surprise us with utterly new twists and turns in his practice—which became ever more playful as he grew older—I soon realized that I had been wrong to think that way. For the work remains, and it remains as a rock of optimism no matter how grim the world becomes around us. It is to this constant freshness that I would like to pay tribute.

Those of us who knew him well often heard Ellsworth lamenting about this or that, but his art always contradicted whatever gloomy mood he might be in. His work was, and will forever be, upbeat, and he himself was invariably upbeat when hard at work.

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