The world and a plant (Die Welt und eine Pflanze). Works by Ellsworth KellyOctober 2019–January 2020
Ellsworth Kelly (New York 1923-2015) was a pioneer of the colour field painting movement after he discarded the emotional gestures of abstract expressionism and replaced them with large, solid colour surfaces. His work also included sculpture and printmaking. Kelly studied in the USA and Paris where he met, amongst others, Jean Arp and Brancusi. Both had an enormous influence on him. Matisse and Monet were a landmark in his career as well. In fact, shortly before his death, Kelly curated exhibitions by the two French artists.
On the occasion of his exhibitions held by the Munich museums Haus der Kunst and Pinakothek der Moderne, the German newspaper Die Welt issue dated 6th October 2011 was illustrated by him. Despite the obvious need for photographs to illustrate the news stories, the newspaper editors decided not to included them but instead inserted Kelly’s genuine coloured geometric forms. This was the second time the newspaper had invited, or maybe we should say challenged, an international artist to contribute to their issues. The first time, in 2010, neo-expressionist artist Georg Baselist was selected. Copies ran out by midday. This innovative and bold publishing experience has continued since then and every year a new artist has enjoyed their work being shown in the paper. Amongst them Gerhard Richter, Cindy Sherman, Julian Schnabel and Jeff Koons.
Of all artistic supports we could imagine –and nowadays there are many– newsprint paper is one of the most fragile and ephemeral. Upon these wood pulp sheets, more prone to yellowing and being wiped out by digital media, the exceptional nature of this mass print run materializes. This edition confirms once again the important role played by serial works in the art world, used throughout history by the most significant and influential artists and showing it to be a technique far from stagnation but quite the opposite. In essence, these simple newspaper sheets are artworks, documents for history, thanks to Kelly’s mastery and Die Welt’s daring initiative.
The title of the exhibition The world and a plant relates to both the translation of the German newspaper header and to Ellsworth Kelly’s obsession with plants from the beginning of his career. That is the reason why accompanying Die Welt we are exhibiting a lithograph titled Tropical plant, from 1997 printed at Gemini G.E.L. workshop in Los Angeles.
Kelly thought he was privileged to be an artist. He said “I think what we all want from art is a sense of fixity, a sense of opposing the chaos of daily living. This is an illusion, of course. But you keep trying to freeze the world as if you could make it last forever.”