Ellsworth Kelly, “Notes of 1969,” in Ellsworth Kelly (Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum, 1980) 30-34. Text slightly revised by the artist in 1993.in Stiles and Selz, Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists’ Writings (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), 92-93.
Ellsworth Kelly was a minimalist who viewed the world through a window, a window that allowed him to “isolate and fragment form.” Form is the most important notion in his notes, as he states, “The form of my painting is the content. “(92) With that in mind, the content of Kelly’s work, Red, Yellow, Blue, is not of subject but of form and the presence of panel and color alone. Thus as Kelly clearly states, “I am less interested in the marks on the panels than the presence of the panels themselves. In Red, Yellow, Blue, 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.” (92)
Kelly’s involvement in form lent itself the world around him. “I began to draw from plant life and found that the flat leaf forms were easier to do than thighs and breast. I wanted to flatten.” (92) To Kelly his work was simply about the “impersonal observation of the form” and more importantly about the structure.”I admired and felt the anonymous structure of the work of Brancusi, Vantongerloo, Arp, and Taeuber-Arp whose studios I visited. Their work reinforced my own ideas for the creation of a Pre-Renaissance, European type art. ” (93) The inspirations from artist like Picasso and Brancusi drove Kelly’s work but also Kelly’s thought towards a “different way of seeing and making something… In my painting, the painting is the subject rather than the subject, the painting.”(93) Without subject, Kelly is free to “take from everything” and “erase all meaning of the thing seen,” thus, the real meaning of it can be truly understood and felt.
– Joseph Warren