“At 93 Kelly has taken a radical leap,” said the gallery guide to a group of more than fifty art lovers lingering at Matthew Marks on Saturday. What was that radical leap? “You may not think it’s a big deal, but moving from one single panel of color to two panels…” Ah yes.
The old single to double panel trick. Notice the cotnrast of black and white and black and white, the shape of shirt, bench in the midde of the room versus that one single painting on the far wall. Quite bold in its simplicity. And it is. perhaps not quite startling as it was fifty years ago. Kelly is one of the few of the first wave of minimalist artists still alive and still very much working. His work is monochrome, and that seems to sum up a bunch of color field painters (Torontians might remember Kelly from the Colour Field show) but in fact it tells us very little. Marcia Hafif, who also shifted from one to two colours recently, also works in monochrome, but there is little in common between Kelly's solid (or broken) matte shapes and Hafif's nuanced and glossed illuminations.
Good art often seems simple. That's part of what makes it good. I have seen many shows at Matthew Marks and usually love them. Last year it was Jasper Johns, before that Roni Horn, Andreas Gursky, Nan Goldin, and so on. This one was no exception. It wasn't stunningly innovative in any way, but it was quietly, meditatively soothing without being overly flat. Bold in its way.
Ellsworth Kelly, “Diagonal”
Matthew Marks Gallery 523 W 24th St to Apr 11.