Although known primarily for his brightly-colored canvases, Kelly has worked throughout his career in black and white, and now, in his 83rd year, he is having his first exhibition concentrating on these paintings. The centerpiece of this exhibition is a group of six new paintings, each consisting of a black and a white panel, joined in relief. The entire 5,000-square-foot gallery on 22nd Street will be devoted to these works, each a variation on the theme. When the concerns of color are removed, the eye focuses more on subtleties of form, and these new paintings, reduced to their formal essence, fully reveal the artist’s compositional rigor.
On view next door in our smaller 22nd Street gallery is a related exhibition of 20 black-and-white ink drawings from a seminal sketchbook made in 1954, shortly after Kelly returned to New York following six years living in Paris. The images in these drawings were inspired by shadows the artist saw cast on the pages of a book he was reading while riding on a bus. Several of these drawings became studies for some of his early black-and-white paintings.
In contrast, Kelly will exhibit four two-panel paintings in the 24th Street gallery that pair highly-saturated panels of red, green, yellow, or blue. A further investigation of a formal and chromatic theme the artist first developed over ten years ago, these new works are perhaps the most refined in scale and color of his career.