PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — One of the great masters of contemporary art is being remembered, after passing away Sunday at the age of 92. Ellsworth Kelly has a big presence in Philadelphia, inside the Museum of Art and outside the Barnes Foundation.
The abstract painter and sculptor, who died at his home in Spencertown, New York, shaped his own distinctive “vocabulary,” whether creating brilliant colors on canvas or making sculptures based on “keen observations he saw in nature and the world around him.”
Carlos Basualdo, senior curator of contemporary art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art says Kelly was a power in 20th century art. In center city, the PMA has a gallery in its Modern and Contemporary Art wing devoted to Kelly’s works, primarily based on Kelly’s time in Paris from the late 1940’s through the mid 50’s.
‘I think he’s one of the giants of American art in the second half of the 20th century,’ Basualdo said.
Basualdo says the gallery is very personal, and based on the life and work of Kelly.
‘The interesting thing about that room, and it’s extraordinary, is that you can see his mind at work,” Basualdo said. “You can see him looking at the people around him and distilling his own very special language.”
Kelly himself was influenced by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Jearn Arp.
Basualdo, who visited Kelly at his studio and home just a few weeks ago, says Kelly “had the most amazing eye and was constantly experimenting and changing.”
The Museum of Art also has a work from Kelly from the 1970’s in its outdoor sculpture garden.
Kelly also was commissioned to create a soaring sculpture, a 40-foot high abstract called “The Barnes Totem,” a zigzagging form of shiny steel at the end of a reflecting pool, near the entrance to the Barnes Foundation.