Los Angeles

Ellsworth Kelly

Irving Blum Gallery

The Irving Blum Gallery is showing a suite of lithographs by Ellsworth Kelly, made in a French workshop in 1966. They bear a tangential relationship to Kelly’s sculpture which sets them apart from the hard-edge paintings. The suite comprises twelve prints depicting leaves, flowers and fruit, drawn sparsely with a firm and yet buoyant stroke, executed in black ink on large sheets of white paper. There are five Cyclamen, three Camelias, a Tangerine, Grapefruit and Lemon. What is most extraordinary about them is that they incorporate virtually every stylistic earmark of Kelly’s recent sculpture while remaining entirely innocent of undue weight or pretense.

The elegance which is always present in Kelly’s work is distilled in the lithographs into real exquisiteness (which in this case does not infer preciousness). The planarity of some of the flowers carries the smallest hint of calculated engineering, but they are kept from appearing as models. In Lemon, two bent leaves are drawn from the barest source and nearly aim toward abstraction. The Cyclamen are spindly and tenuous; the delicate curvature of flat surfaces in three-dimensional space comes across miraculously with the slightest nuances of bent line. There is not a single instance of internal modelling or chiaroscuro, but the artist’s sculptural handling of thin surfaces is fully evident in the flat white’ petal-shaped areas. The line shapes planes simply by moving around and not through. If one typical element is missing from the lithographs it is the sense of volume (seldom felt densely or as substance-charged in Kelly’s art); yet, in the Camelias, leaves and petals wrap volumes, indicating the possibility of an ephemerality or ambiguousness in the enclosure of space that even the lightest sculpture does not attain.

Jane Livingston