The exhibition features new and recent works by five New York-based contemporary artists who draw upon Ellsworth Kelly’s legacy in their varied practices. Painting/Object coincides with FLAG’s exhibition Ellsworth Kelly, curated by Jack Shear, on its 9th Floor.
The title of the exhibition refers to a phrase used by Ellsworth Kelly (1923-2015) to describe Window, Museum of Modern Art, 1949, the first work in which he combined multiple relief panels to create one image: “It is the replica of a window that does not exist as either window or painting but as painting/object…the flattening of the forms in paintings condenses vision and presents a three-dimensional world reduced to two dimensions.” Kelly’s newfound direction, which would ultimately become the cornerstone of his oeuvre, disrupted painting’s traditional figure-ground relationship and resulted in an increasingly simplified visual language. Crowner, Dash, Moyer, Rommel, and Shirreff employ similar formal tactics as Kelly, yet each embraces the mark of the artist’s hand to highlight distinctive approaches to construction, materiality, and process.
Sarah Crowner integrates repeated shapes and patterns—often in saturated, primary colors— into graphic compositions that evoke hard-edge painting, modernist design, and textile production. Crowner’s patchwork construction of panels of raw and painted canvas references craft traditions, such as quilting, sewing, and collage. “It’s a way of creating form by joining material,” Crowner says of her process, which she uses to bring more tactility to the medium. “They are really objects more than paintings.”
N. Dash’s monochromatic, stacked canvases encapsulate the artist’s tactile engagement with the world. Dash layers gesso, paint, and graphite over adobe—hand-collected in New Mexico—to create textural surfaces that accentuate the natural cracks, ripples, and imperfections of the material underneath. Beveled at the edges, these paintings pivot between two and three dimensions, and acknowledge their material’s historical significance in creating structure.
Sam Moyer’s newly created Coenties Slip, Spencertown, and Rye, all 2018, reference three New York locations where Kelly lived and worked throughout his career. Moyer fuses painted canvas and reclaimed fragments of granite, marble, and limestone—stones used in capacities ranging from classical sculpture to kitchen design—into color field abstractions that address ideas of labor, luxury, and beauty.
Julia Rommel incorporates physical traces of construction into paintings that layer process, color, and elements of chance. Geometry, ridges, and breaks in monochromatic planes are the result of the artist repeatedly stretching, painting, un-stretching, and re-stretching linen canvas on differently-scaled bars. Rommel’s The Unbelievers, 2016, is directly inspired by Kelly’s black and white photography, and employs a similar strategy of high-contrast, angular shapes that accentuate architectural forms.
Erin Shirreff explores the possibilities of representing three-dimensional objects through photography, painting, sculpture, and video. Shirreff’s sculpture Catalogue, 21 parts, 2016, is comprised of handmade cylinders, arches, irregular blocks, and a variety of other shapes, assembled en masse to create a compact still-life. The artist photographs the sculpture’s individual components and prints them in large-scale format; this shift in scale and medium recasts intimate objects as monumental, architectural portraits.