Red Panel


Ellsworth Kelly ( American, 1923 - 2015 )

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General Description

Emptied of any meaning beyond itself and the space it commands, Ellsworth Kelly's Red Panel vibrates with an energy barely contained by its edges. Seamlessly integrating color, scale, and shape, Kelly created a powerful, sensuous, and seemingly soaring form that seems to dissolve the boundaries between painting and sculpture.

Kelly's austere abstract paintings, sculptures, and drawings have paralleled and anticipated critical movements in contemporary art, including color-field painting and minimalism. Kelly lived in Paris from 1948 to 1954, studied at the École des Beaux Arts, and had contact with Francis Picabia, Jean Arp and his wife, Sophie Täuber-Arp, Alexander Calder, and Joan Miró. Kelly was inspired by the idea of chance determining composition and color, which Arp, in collaboration with his wife, explored with collage, and John Cage with music. Brancusi's simple, often solitary sculpture, economically expressing the essence of movement, strengthened Kelly's desire to focus on a single form.

In 1949, Kelly abandoned figurative art, and from then the content of his work became form-an extracted fragment "found" in his surroundings. In his early collages, reliefs, and simple panel paintings of the 1950s and early 1960s, a crisp pattern or shape, a simple curve or line, are based on forms he has observed: the play of light on water, the arch of a bridge and its reflection in the water below, a shadow falling on a stairway, the shape of pipes and chimneys on city walls. In these works, Kelly investigated the interaction between the edge of the canvas and the shape of the image. Kelly eliminated art's traditional figure/ground relationship, producing multipaneled works in black and white or in brilliant primary colors, as well as eccentrically shaped monochrome works; ground essentially became the wall or space around the work. Color, for Kelly, was the means by which to add sculptural elements of mass and weight.

Adapted from

Suzanne Weaver, "Red Panel," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, ed. Charles Venable (New Haven, NJ: Yale University Press, 1997), 290.