Anonymous Objects

Geometric Abstraction: Ellsworth Kelly, Notes of 1969

Ellsworth Kelly kicks off his Notes of 1969 by reminiscing on how he contrived his own style of art after arriving in Paris in 1948. Kelly was able to do this by emphasizing on objects rather than emphasizing on a specific subject (such as the paintings of the Renaissance era). He explains, “Instead of making a picture that was an interpretation of a thing seen, or a picture of invented content, I found an object and ‘presented’ it as itself alone. My first object was “Window”, done in 1949.” (30) “Window” was created by combining canvas, paint, and wood. The placement of the objects was done so in a way that created a more three-dimensional, or sculptural, illusion from the canvas. Kelly explains that the purpose of his newfound style [of art] is to create unsigned, anonymous objects.

Kelly’s works focus on content. He uses his painting “Red, Yellow, Blue” as an example to display his intentions. He writes, “The square panels present color. It was made to exist forever in the present, it is an idea and can be repeated anytime in the future.” (31) In other words, because these paintings are strictly solid colors and lack a subject, they do not define a specific time period or display a particular scene in history. Colors have been known to man for as long as one can remember. Colors are something that every individual is able to recognize and associate with, and it will continue to be that way for the rest of time.

As previously stated, Kelly’s goal is to create unsigned, anonymous works of art that use the form of [his] painting as the content. His interests lies in the objects of art rather than subjects of art. Kelly writes, “I felt that everything is beautiful but that which man tries intentionally to make beautiful, that the work of an ordinary bricklayer is more valid than the artwork of all but a very few artists.” (30) His creativity stems from his ability to erase the meaning from what is being seen, turning the ‘subject’ into an object.

– Aiesha Kornegay


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