Ellsworth Kelly ( American, 1923 - 2015 )

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General Description

Ellsworth Kelly created this imposing yet playful sculpture specifically for the 1984 opening of the Dallas Museum of Art's Edward Larrabee Barnes building. The sculpture is part of a series of works informally called "rockers," which Kelly began in the late 1950s. Based on the form of a child's rocking toy, the first of these sculptures, dating from 1959, is titled Pony, an unambiguous reference to the shape of a hobby horse. This untitled piece of similar form is made of two simple joined arcs that rise at one end to a height of nearly ten feet.

In almost all his work, whether painting or sculpture, Kelly takes his formal cues from an object (such as a kite) or from a certain phenomenon (such as a shadow on a wall) that he finds outside his studio. In the Dallas sculpture, Kelly retains the functional aspect of a rocking toy (this work could rock back and forth if it were not bolted to the ground) and pares down its form to a series of simple outlines. Viewing the work head on, its two arcs seem to be symmetrical. Moving around the work, one becomes aware that they are not: Kelly's curves play with the viewer's perception by swinging outward into space and then back again in graceful juxtaposition. By exploiting the way static shapes can seem to move in space, and by executing the work at this scale, Kelly has conceived a sculpture that, for all its origin in real life, functions only according to its own rules. The result is a beautifully proportioned, refined, and endlessly challenging work of art.

Excerpt from

Charles Wylie, "Untitled," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, ed. Charles Venable (New Haven, NJ: Yale University Press, 1997), 292.

Fun Facts

This sculpture weighs 17,000 pounds!