August 2012 - Aesthetic Post

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Plant Drawings by Ellsworth Kelly

The Metropolitan Museum of Art first displayed a selection of Ellsworth Kelly’s plant drawings in 1969, as part of the historic exhibition New York Painting and Sculpture: 1940-1970; though separated from other Kelly works, this was the first time the drawings had been shown. The museum recently reintroduced the collection, along with newer work, as the nearly eighty piece exhibition Ellsworth Kelly Plant Drawings.

As Kelly’s work is most easily recognized as bold and of the abstract “hard-edge” style, there is a certain gracefulness and insight to the artist’s mind that these drawings embody. Kelly suggests depth and dimension by way of overlapping strokes, while avoiding the superfluous. From clean, unbroken pencil lines, to strong black strokes, and even some nuanced color, there is variety in technique, but the work is decidedly minimal, a direct portrait of each plant drawn.

A nature lover, Kelly started making his plant drawings in the late 1940s, and today, at 89, is still producing them; he makes clear that this catalogue is not to be approached as an encyclopedic volume of plant varieties, but as individual plants captured in time, lending a personal story to each.

Ellsworth Kelly Plant Drawings is on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art through September 3, 2012. Schirmer Mosel has published an accompanying catalogue in the format of a coffee table art book, $95.

Above: “Sunflower,” 1957; “Briar,” 1961

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