The Prince of Prints

March 05, 2012 | by by michael ventre | Pursuits

Ellsworth Kelly’s 1976 work Colors on a Grid.

It’s spring. Love is in the air. In particular, love for Ellsworth Kelly seems to be everywhere in LA, bursting like one of his bright, monochromatic prints.

The giant of American abstraction—who turns 89 in May—is being celebrated with a three-month retrospective of his lithograph prints, paintings, and sculpture at LACMA and also with an exhibit at the new Matthew Marks Gallery in LA, the façade of which he also designed. And to top off this Ellsworth extravaganza, the French fashion label Kenzo is releasing a Spring/Summer 2012 collection inspired by his bold mastery of shapes and colors.

“I’m very happy with the show at LACMA,” says Kelly, calling it “the best show of my prints I have seen.” As for the exterior of the Matthew Marks Gallery, the artist says, “When I saw the model of the building, it just came to me in a flash. It had to have a black bar. Since then I have thought a lot about the fact that more than a quarter of my paintings are in black and white.”

Although Kelly was born in Newburgh, NY, grew up in New Jersey, and now lives in Spencertown, NY, he has a special affinity for the City of Angels and its art community. The exhibit at Matthew Marks Gallery, for instance, marks his 15th solo exhibition here since 1992. “I have represented Ellsworth Kelly for more than 20 years,” says the gallerist. “I opened my first space in Chelsea in 1994 with a show of new paintings [by him]. It means a lot to me to inaugurate another gallery with an Ellsworth Kelly exhibition.”

Marks continues, “[The show at LACMA] includes more than half the prints he has made. These two shows underscore the nearly 50-year relationship Ellsworth has had with Los Angeles [since] he first showed here in 1965 at the Ferus Gallery.” Stephanie Barron, senior curator of modern art at LACMA, says she’s thrilled to have the Kelly retrospective under the museum’s roof—and the Left Coast is an especially appropriate place for many of these works. “Particularly with this body of prints, most of them were made here in Los Angeles at Gemini G.E.L. [studio],” she says. “It’s a wonderful homecoming.”

Ellsworth Kelly: Prints and Paintings is on display at LACMA through April 22. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., LA, 323-857-6000. Ellsworth Kelly: Los Angeles is on display at Matthew Marks Gallery through April 7. 1062 N. Orange Grove Dr., LA, 323-654-1830.

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