In 1978, Ellsworth Kelly was commissioned to create a painting for the lobby of a new building in Cincinnati. His piece, Color Panels for a Large Wall, was the resulting work, a 30-by-125-foot painting that clocked in as his largest ever made. Yet the artist’s work in this vein would live well beyond this specific installation, reprised in several iterations of shows and installs in Amsterdam, New York, and Munich. In 2003, Kelly reconfigured the painting’s eighteen panels — from two rows of nine to three rows of six — when it was installed in its permanent home at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.
Ellsworth Kelly, Color Panels for a Large Wall (Installation View), via Matthew Marks
Commemorating the artist’s unique, subtly evolving work, Matthew Marks Gallery is currently presenting Color Panels for a Large Wall at its 22nd Street Space, documenting the artist’s work on view across a series of works using this approach. The show centers around Color Panels for a Large Wall II (1978), a work painted while Kelley worked on the larger version of his work, rendering a 3½-by-31-foot version that Kelly kept for himself. It preserves the larger painting’s original horizontal composition in two rows of nine panels, but changes the scale and form. The piece’s granular approach to color and pacing, allowing sudden changes and endless iterations of relation between spaces and parts of the piece, brings up the artist’s interest in architecture, and were actually designed in collaboration with architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill for the construction of the original Color Panels. The work’s specific investment in space and on the capability of space to interact with the visitors and agents within it, underscores Kelly’s deep-seated interest in how art contributes to that same conversation, while also underscoring his understanding in how the artist can subtly shift these exchanges through their own subjectivity.
Accompanying Color Panels for a Large Wall II are related works by Kelly spanning more than fifty years, including paintings, collages, and a scale model for a never-realized sculpture. A group of collages from the early 1950s present colored rectangles in grids that anticipate the precise intervals of Color Panels for a Large Wall. Taken as a whole, the show invites the viewer into an extended dialogue with space, both that outside of and around the work, and that constructed from the work’s presence.
The show closes January 19th.
— C. Reinhart
Matthew Marks [Exhibition site]