Art Institute of Chicago announces "Ellsworth Kelly: Spectrum Colors Arranged by Chance"
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Art Institute of Chicago announces "Ellsworth Kelly: Spectrum Colors Arranged by Chance"
Ellsworth Kelly. Spectrum Colors Arranged by Chance VII, 1951. Glenstone Museum, Potomac, Maryland. ©️ Ellsworth Kelly Foundation.

CHICAGO, IL.- The Art Institute of Chicago announced Ellsworth Kelly: Spectrum Colors Arranged by Chance on view June 22 through September 9, 2024. This focused exhibition of ten works is the first time that the complete series, created between 1951 and 1953, will be on view, allowing visitors to experience the power of these works together.

Using chance operations and a modular grid, Kelly produced the first eight large-scale collages in October and November of 1951. The works were constructed with papier gommette, sticky colored paper used by French schoolchildren, cut into squares. The manufactured palette of the papier gommette allowed for a type of “readymade” color, which Kelly arranged not according to traditional compositional sensibilities, but rather by chance, assigning a number to each color and placing it in a grid formation. Kelly later returned to the series in 1953, creating a ninth collage and a painting, expanding the scale and the format of the collages in oil on wood.

In addition to demonstrating Kelly’s experiments with chance and early non-compositional strategies, the series also shows Kelly’s unexpected uses of color. Many aspects of this series would become foundational to his practice in the decades that followed. By focusing on the importance of a single series to Kelly’s practice, this exhibition illuminates a pivotal chapter in the career of one of the 20th century’s defining artists.

Caitlin Haskell, Gary C. and Frances Comer Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art commented: “With the Spectrum Colors series, Kelly developed a system for generating a profusion of aesthetic surprises, breaking free of visual habit and relinquishing his own subjective role in determining work’s appearance… The color juxtapositions that give these collages their charge upended expectations about art making in their own time, and they remain a source of extraordinary visual stimulation.”

“This jewel box show allows us to highlight this pivotal series in Kelly’s vibrantly successful career as an artist,” said Giampaolo Bianconi, associate curator, Modern and Contemporary Art. “Exhibited within the Art Institute’s collection galleries, this exhibition likewise places the artist’s practice in context. The exhibition directly abuts rooms displaying many of Kelly’s international contemporaries and descendants.”

Ellsworth Kelly: Spectrum Colors Arranged by Chance is curated by Caitlin Haskell, Gary C. and Frances Comer Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art, and Giampaolo Bianconi, associate curator, Modern and Contemporary Art.

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