|Ellsworth Kelly, Curves on White (Four Panels), 2012|
But these works are not really about painting, at least, they are not about paint. For in their sculptural presence the panels become, at times, no more than light. The shadow cast by the elliptical color on the white panel, which in turn casts its shadow on the wall, give dimensionality to white. The sun brings the white panel as plinth into existence and the colored one a new dimensionality, when at other moments, white melts into the wall and we are left to examine the colored panel as a painting. Kelly thus uses light to give dimensionality to painting, objecthood to color. And yet, the relationship between support and wall, between painting and sculpture, color and form, all these are the fundamental issues of painting, not sculpture.
It is true that Kelly's work refuses to fit neatly into any of the prescribed categories for painting given to us by art history and criticism. But what struck me when I was immersed in the excitement of this environment created solely through the interaction of color and light, was how the discourses engaged in by the paintings were strictly intellectual. Like the postwar experiments in the conceptual and optical dimensions of painting in an effort to push at its boundaries, Curves on White (Four Panels) retains all of the intellectuality, the refusal of gesture - what today is called "anonymity" - and the scientific, mathematical, anti-expressionism of 1950s and 1960s American painting. While these four panels may elude comfortable categorization, they are every bit the epitome of the world from which they come.
All images courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery