Ellsworth Kelly
EVER ABSTRACT "I tried very hard," says Kelly of his attempts at abstract expressionism before
discovering his iconic minimalist style.


Ellsworth Kelly was on a boat back from World War II when someone handed him something to read. "Esquire magazine had an article on Karl Zerbe," he recalls. That glimpse of the expressionist's moody paintings inspired him to find Zerbe and study with him at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts.

Here drawing became the foundation for his art, but not expressionism: "I tried very hard," the now-88-year-old artist says at the MFA's press opening for the Linde Family Wing and his "Wood Sculpture" exhibition in that wing's first-floor Foster Gallery. "I did quite a few paintings like that." Instead he developed elemental geometric canvases, now icons of modernism. "I think abstract is just the opposite of naturalism or figurative. I can't stand figurative work. It's been done." 

> SLIDESHOWScenes from the opening of the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art <

Walking among the survey of his wood sculptures at the MFA, he says he tried "to do as little as possible to the wood." He adds, "I don't like circles because I feel circles are too finished. You can't do anything with it. But a square you can do something with. Curves are fabulous."

He personally oversaw the installation of the sculptures, which project off the walls. "Shadows are very important. Shadows are always contemporary, modern, abstract in a way." He marvels over the colors and "flames" of the wood grain. "The marks in the wood grain are at least 100 years old, but the curves are today."

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