Zeit Contemporary Art is pleased to present Lilt, Joy and Clarity: The Prints of Ellsworth Kelly, an online viewing room organized in close collaboration with Gemini G.E.L., featuring a selection of works from 1970 to 2013 that provide a unique perspective into Kelly’s artistic practice with a particular focus on his later work. The visible emphasis on shape, color, surface, ground, and negative space are concerns which remained core to Kelly’s oeuvre throughout the entirety of his career in every medium, but particularly present in his work as a printmaker.
Kelly refined his abstract formalist aesthetic in Paris in the postwar period and, along with many of his contemporaries, began to explore the possibilities of printmaking during the mid-60s. While Kelly had created prints by the time of his inclusion in the Metropolitan Museums of Art’s noteworthy New York Painting and Sculpture 1940-1970 exhibition, it was not until he found the print workshop Gemini G.E.L. that he began to really dedicate himself to exploring the myriad possibilities afforded by the medium in the early 1970s. The workshop constituted his collaborative place of choice as a result of their adventurous yet determined ethos, resulting in many technological innovations to create prints according to Kelly’s exacting specifications.
A distinctive aspect of prints is their inherent flatness, resulting in the sensation of a certain presence that is different from that of encountering a three-dimensional object. In this way, prints take especially well to Kelly’s language. When proofing, the artist first selected a shape derived from a form found in nature before carefully matching it to a color. Kelly was an exuberant colorist, sometimes requiring multiple gallons of ink to create just the right hue for the color he had in mind. Not shy when it came to size, the prints encompass a range of 12 x 9 in. to 5 x 13 ft, and in some cases a series could take years to complete. As is evident in this selection, all of these perceptive decisions ultimately result in the sensation of a quiet yet pulsating strength. No matter the challenge, Kelly and Gemini G.E.L. always found a solution to bring Kelly’s artistic vision to fruition. This online viewing room thus acts as an ode to the collaborations that led to these enduring works of art.