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Three large-scale sculptures by Ellsworth Kelly go on view at the Morgan Library & Museum
Ellsworth Kelly, Untitled, 1996. Redwood, 176 x 25 ¼ x 4 ½ inches. Private collection. © Ellsworth Kelly.

NEW YORK, NY.- Although best known for his brightly colored, minimalist paintings, Ellsworth Kelly has also worked with sculptural forms for most of his professional career. These often large-scale works exhibit the same spare, clean-edged beauty associated with his paintings, while also highlighting the natural textures and surfaces of the materials from which they are made.

Beginning today, The Morgan Library & Museum placed on view three of Mr. Kelly’s sculptures—a bronze piece, one in mahogany, and the other in redwood—in the museum’s multi-storied, glass-enclosed Gilbert Court. Each standing from twelve to fifteen feet high with long, almost totemic shapes, the works are accompanied by a selection of studies, models, and drawings showing the artist’s exploration of sculptural form.

The exhibition is the third in a series of summer shows at the Morgan devoted to modern and contemporary sculpture. In 2011, the Chinese artist Xu Bing created a new version of his sculpture The Living Word specifically for Gilbert Court, and in 2010 three sculptures by Mark di Suvero were installed in the same space.

An icon of modernism whose paintings grace the walls of museums throughout the world, Mr. Kelly is less known for his work as a sculptor.Yet his interest in the discipline dates to the 1950s and the early years of his career when he began to work with wood, attracted to the beauty of its grain and colors. In the ensuing years and to the present day, the artist has continued his explorations.

The exhibition’s studies, models, and drawings, in particular, speak to Kelly’s working method. Drawings from the 1970s, for example, show how the first totem sculptures were planned as a series cut from the same aluminum plate, with the concave and convex curves echoing each other. The approximately two-foot high models fabricated in the same material as the final pieces allowed Kelly to visualize the forms in three dimensions and their relationship to the surrounding space.

“Ellsworth Kelly is among that select group of artists whose names are synonymous with the term ‘modernism’ and whose paintings are among the most universally recognized of our time,” said William M. Griswold, director of The Morgan Library & Museum. “His work as a sculptor is equally important. The Morgan is delighted to present these extraordinary pieces as part of its recently inaugurated program of summertime sculpture exhibitions in Gilbert Court.”

The three works in the show are all untitled and exhibit a similar quiet, spare form that rises from a narrow base to a slightly wider top. The materials from which they are made—bronze, mahogany, and redwood—offer variations in color, surface, and texture. The pureness of the edges of the pieces bear stylistic similarities to the clean lines in Mr. Kelly’s paintings.

Two of the works are from private collections and one is in the collection of the artist. The studies, models, and drawings that are displayed in cases in an alcove off Gilbert Court are preparatory for works in steel, bronze, and wood.

The exhibition will remain on view in Gilbert Court through September 9, 2012.

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