PASADENA, CA.- The Norton Simon Museum
presents an exhibition of twenty lithographs of botanical subjects by American artist Ellsworth Kelly (b. 1923) on view from April 23, 2010 through August 23, 2010. Though Kelly is best known for his large-scale, color field paintings, Plants, Flowers and Fruits showcases his equally compelling efforts in the print medium. Executed on paper like a drawing and then transferred to a lithography stone, these prints present simple black lines that delineate pears, cyclamen and magnolia petals, among other subjects. All of the specimens have been enlarged to allow for close scrutiny, but the artist has depicted them without any distracting scientific details. Part botanical renderings, part abstract drawings, Kellys simplified, confident depictions of plants reflect how strongly the artists minimalism is rooted in the natural world.
Kellys first forays into abstraction stemmed from a deeply considered examination of the natural and built environments in which he lived. Architectural features such as doorways and windowpanes were simplified by the artist into a minimal number of lines, squares and arches. Likewise, leaves, stems and petals provided inspiration, and alongside his early trials in abstraction, Kelly continued to make drawings from nature. While growing up in New Jersey, he focused on the flora that proliferated not far from the metropolis in which his abstract works would one day change the course of art. The endless array of curls, curves and angles he found in foliate forms spurred this lifelong interest.
Kellys earliest drawings on the subject date to his high school years. He later recalled of them, The drawings from plant life seem to be the bridge to the way of seeing that brought about the paintings in 1949 that are the basis for all of my later work. Kellys initial series of 28 transfer lithographs, entitled Suite of Plant Lithographs (196466), marked the beginning of a corpus that would grow to 72 prints and countless drawings of foliage. Paradoxically, these works also fueled his most minimal artistic experiments. At the time that he executed this first series of prints, for example, he was working on his first series of abstract prints, employing the vibrant colors and geometric shapes that would eventually define his career.
Plants, Flowers and Fruits: Ellsworth Kelly Lithographs is organized by Leah Lehmbeck, Assistant Curator at the Norton Simon Museum.