In celebration of Ellsworth Kelly’s 90th birthday in May 2013, The Museum of Modern Art presents an exhibition of the first series of paintings the artist made after leaving New York City for Spencertown, in upstate New York, in 1970. The studio he rented in the nearby town of Chatham, in a building that had once been a theater, was more spacious than any he had previously occupied. After working there for a year, Kelly embarked on a series of 14 paintings that would become the Chatham Series. Each work takes the form of an inverted ell, and is made of two joined canvases, each canvas a monochrome of a different color. The works vary in proportion and palette from one to the next; careful attention was paid to the size of each panel and the color selected in order to achieve balance and contrast between the two. Kelly developed the concept of painting on joined panels while working in Paris in the early 1950s, and it is an approach he continues to explore in his current work. The series has not been exhibited in its entirety since it was presented at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, in 1972, just a year after the paintings were finished. Reuniting this critical series provides a welcome opportunity to investigate a key moment in Kelly’s artistic development.
Organized by Ann Temkin, The Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture.