Ellsworth Kelly: Chatham Series

Ellsworth Kelly. Chatham VI: Red Blue. 1971

Oil on canvas, two panels, 9' 6 1/2" x 8' 6 1/4" (290.8 x 259.7 cm). Gift of Douglas S. Cramer Foundation. © 2022 Ellsworth Kelly

Curator, Ann Temkin: Ellsworth Kelly moved to upstate New York in 1970, one year before he began work on this series. He purchased a home in Spencertown, and soon found a studio to rent in the nearby town of Chatham. While driving down Main Street, Kelly spotted a two-story building with large, twelve-foot windows on its second floor.

Artist, Ellsworth Kelly: When I saw those windows, I thought that’s going to be good. Then I went up, and I thought it was going to be perfect.

Ann Temkin: Constructed in 1871, the building had many functions before Kelly transformed it into his studio. Known as Cady’s Hall, as a sign on its façade still proclaims today, the street-level had several storefronts but over the course of the decades, the space above served many purposes.

Ellsworth Kelly: It was a basketball court for a while and a theatre. The stage had a hole, and I went down through it and picked up all kinds of mementos. Well for instance, cards of magicians because it was a place where they all performed.

Ann Temkin: This space, which was his first studio outside of his home, inspired Kelly to new levels of ambition for his work, in terms of scale and experimentation with a single form. The approach that Kelly took in the Chatham Series has its roots in the work produced during his long stay in France in the early 1950s. In the adjacent gallery are 40 collages he made in 1951 for a proposed book titled Line Form Color. In this collages, Kelly demonstrated how simple elements yield infinite possibilities for visual experimentation. These concepts provided Kelly with a vocabulary that has continued to nourish his work ever since.

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