Although Ellsworth Kelly has been associated with Minimalism and Color Field painting, his artistic development occurred independently of these influences in Paris, where he studied on the G.I. bill after serving in World War II. Kelly’s paintings and sculptures appear to be hard-edged abstractions, but they are, in fact, inspired by organic and architectural forms, and his work has long included naturalistic outline drawings of foliage and flowers. Unlike the Abstract Expressionists who preceded him, Kelly is an artist whose work is premeditated and planned, and he strives for flat, unmodulated areas of saturated color and the elimination of his own personal mark, qualities visible in the early lithograph Red-Orange.
Printmaking has been an important part of Kelly’s oeuvre since the 1960s. Working primarily in lithography at Gemini G.E.L in Los Angeles and at the workshop of Kenneth Tyler, formerly master printer and co-founder of Gemini, he has completed approximately three hundred editions. Kelly’s collaborations with Tyler include the highly experimental series Colored Paper Images. The twenty-three works in this series were created by ladling colored paper pulp into plastic and metal forms and then applying the pressure of the printing press to fuse the colored pulp to a wet sheet of paper. These prints retain the basic characteristics of Kelly’s work: his vocabulary of geometric shapes, curves, and arcs, and his brilliant color. However, this project also marks a departure for the artist in several ways. The bleed of the wet paper pulp prevents the shapes from achieving a clean edge, while the tactile texture of the handmade paper and pulp introduces a new variability of surface. Further, the unpredictable nature of the materials allows chance to enter into Kelly’s highly controlled working process. The result is significant variations between impressions within each edition.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Sarah Suzuki, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, pp. 192-193.