Monday, 28 December 2015

Ellsworth Kelly, 1923 - 2015

Ellsworth Kelly, Train Landscape, 1952-3
Ellsworth Kelly died 27 December 2015.
In both reproduction and literal description Ellsworth Kelly's Modernist abstractions can seem banal; however, this belies the grand, voluptuous physical presence of these majestic paintings experienced in a gallery.
The often subtly shaped canvases (frequently curved), the precisely scaled, toned and juxtaposed expanses of pure colour achieve a rare spiritual and sensual effect that is unique to this artist. Indeed, it is difficult to locate Kelly tidily amongst his forbears and peers: his work is more cool and subtle that most of the Abstract Expressionists, more sensual and spiritual than the Post-Painterly Abstractionists such as Stella and Noland, and more expressive than the Minimalists. Mark Rosenthal aptly describes Kelly's work as exuding "an ineluctable presence, an aura of something palpable" and traces his aesthetic to the artist's interest in Romanesque and Gothic architecture, to Egyptian pyramids and Sung vases as well as to the Modernism of Mondrian and Brancusi; Kelly also collected archaic stone objects for what he termed their "aura of shape". (1)
Alongside his bold, simple colour abstractions Kelly throughout his life drew from nature - his spare outline drawings of plants contributing to the shapes of his paintings. But it will be for the potent distillation of colour that Kelly is remembered as a major post-war American painter.
Read a recent interview with the 92 year old Kelly by Jason Farago.
Read obituaries by Christopher Masters, Holland Cotter, and in The Telegraph
(1) Waldman, D. ed. (1997) Ellsworth Kelly: A Retrospective, London: Tate Gallery, pp62-3
Click on images to enlarge
Ellsworth Kelly, Window, Museum of Modern Art, Paris, 1949
Ellsworth Kelly, Painting for a White Wall, 1952
Ellsworth Kelly, Rebound, 1959
Ellsworth Kelly, Orange Red Relief, 19596
Ellsworth Kelly, Gate, 1959
Ellsworth Kelly, Red Blue Green, 1963
Ellsworth Kelly, Orange Green, 1964
Ellsworth Kelly, Yellow Piece, 1966
Ellsworth Kelly, Dark Blue Curve, 1995
Ellsworth Kelly, Four Sunflowers, 1957

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Hoyland, Caro, Noland - Pace London

Kenneth Noland, Salute, 1963
Hoyland, Caro, Noland is at Pace London until 16 January 2016.
You wait years for a John Hoyland exhibition then two come along at once. Hot on the heels of the Newport Street Gallery's JohnHoyland: Power Stations: Paintings, 1964-1982 (continuing to 3 April 2016 - see below) Pace London  presents a selection of his work alongside his contemporaries and friends, Anthony Caro and KennethNoland. It's a triumvirate which harks back to the heady days of 1960s Post-Painterly Abstraction when all the talk was of colour, form, 'staining', 'flatness', 'openness and clarity' (Clement Greenberg) and 'shape as form' and the 'primacy of the literal over depicted shape' (Michael Fried). The present grouping calls to mind Michael Fried's championing in 1965 of Three American Painters: Kenneth Noland, Frank Stella and Jules Olitski. (Noland's and Stella's reputations seem assured - Stella currently being celebrated at theWhitney (a show I would love to see) - but Olitski has remained largely invisible, at least in the UK.
From the Pace Gallery press release:
Hoyland, Caro and Noland all emerged in the wake of the first generation of the New York School and sought to continue the legacies of their abstract forebears. Hoyland first met Noland in 1964 having already been deeply impressed by Caro's historic show at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1963, the year before his own appearance there with the influential 'New Generation' Exhibition. Caro's work had shifted ground dramatically during his time in the United States, and his capacity for inventing new forms had made Hoyland recognise the value of meeting the artists, including Noland, who had had such an impact on his friend...
The friendship of Caro and Noland had first begun in 1959 when Caro found his ideas sharpened by his encounters with the American artist, who was a leading figure among the post-painterly abstraction painters that critic Clement Greenberg was at that time championing. Already well established as an important colour-field painter and figure in the Washington Colour School, Noland left an indelible impression on his British peer with his commitment to the exploration of colour’s psychic and phenomenological effects through serialized forms, including horizontal bands.
Read review by Robin Greenwood.
John Hoyland, 5.11.65, 1965
John Hoyland, 22.1.67, 1967
John Hoyland, Ait 10.9.72, 1972
John Hoyland, 18.6.73, 1973
Anthony Caro, Survey, 1971-73
Anthony Caro, Stainless Piece C, 1974-75
Kenneth Noland, 3 by 3, 1963
Kenneth Noland, Silent Adios III, 1969
Kenneth Noland, Cove, 1976
Hoyland, Caro, Noland - installation view, Pace London
Hoyland, Caro, Noland - installation view, Pace London

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Michael Craig-Martin - Serpentine Gallery

Michael Craig-Martin, Untitled (light bulb), 2014
Michael Craig-Martin: Transience is at the Serpentine Gallery until 14 February 2016.
It's been a busy year for Michael Craig-Martin: in the spring his excellent book On Being an Artist was published, in the summer he was co-ordinator of the Royal Academy Summer Show and now he has an exhibition of his distinctive paintings at the Serpentine spanning the years 1981to 2014.
Craig-Martin has been making his crisply-delineated drawings of common-place, manufactured objects since the late 1970s and has assembled a lexicon of archetypes. In On Being an Artist he explains that he chose "objects so familiar that they had become invisible" and he set himself a rule  that "I would never draw something that could not be recognised instantly". (p171)  However, along the way many of those consumer objects which were once so familiar have become obsolete as new technologies and social habits have emerged. Transience charts a cultural transition from the days of clipboards, portable TVs, audio cassette tapes and Palm Pilots to the digital world of laptops, smart cards and smart phones - all rendered in his signature black outlines and clashing hyperactive colours.
Read reviews by Adrian Searle, Alastair Sooke, Laura Cumming and Waldemar Januszczak.
Read an interview with Tim Adams on the occasion of the publication of On Being an Artist. (Click on images to enlarge.)
Michael Craig-Martin, Untitled battery), 2014

Michael Craig-Martin, Cassette, 2002
Michael Craig-Martin, Eye of the Storm, 2002
Michael Craig-Martin, Untitled (watch), 2015
Michael Craig-Martin, Untitled (xbox control), 2014
Michael Craig-Martin, Untitled (iPhone purple), 2013
Michael Craig-Martin, Untitled (laptop turquoise), 2014
Michael Craig-Martin, Biding Time (magenta), 2004
Michael Craig-Martin, installation view of Transience, Serpentine Gallery 2015-16