Los Angeles

Ellsworth Kelly

Ferus Gallery

Kelly quite rightfully occupies a leading and influential position among today’s painters and this brilliant presentation confirms his awesome control of the optical language.

Typically a single full blown shape (here, geometric or rectangular) attached to at least one edge of the canvas, clearly commands a prime position of full dimension. The contours are sharply cut, the oil paint applied in a clean, subtly brushed manner. His European experience perhaps produces a more traditional approach to composition and space. In the banded organizations of Noland and Stella, one sizes up the whole, scans the sequences, judges lengths, and very often becomes involved in perspectival diminution. These represent a newer attitude. Kelly’s work, as well as the limited configurations of Reinhardt, Newman, or Albers, can be read in terms of, first, recognition of the large, simple images, and movement within these color areas. Then one alternates between interpreting various bowing, fluctuating spatial ambiguities and being held fixated at the halating effects at the borders of the color-forms.

His basic choices, red, yellow, blue, orange, and green, are audaciously cast in their maximum purity. The contrasts of Red, Green, Blue (1964), Red, Blue and Dark Blue, Red (both 1965) are precisely involved with extravagant and violent color interaction. While amazingly able to maintain a contiguous surface, Kelly creates spatial intervals, recessions seemingly inches deep. The space in the nonobjective works is as illusory as that found in his recent suite of leaf and fruit drawings. The illusion seems as concretely actual as his fully realized departures into attached relief forms or the folded steel sculpture, Gate (1959). Thus even the nine inches of space placed between each section of his untitled four panel painting (1965, each a single uniform color: green, red, yellow, blue) is a daring yet perfectly logical investigation of retinal or tangible spatial gaps.

Fidel A. Danieli