ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
Line and Curve: The Ellsworth Kelly and Jack Shear Shaker Collection from Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon with Prints by Ellsworth Kelly
M. Stephen and Miriam R. Miller Shaker Gallery
When the American painter, sculptor, and printmaker Ellsworth Kelly (1923–2015) first encountered Shaker objects in 1970, he was already an established artist with a recognizable body of work—work that drew the viewer's eye to shapes, colors, surfaces, lines and curves, without the distraction of unnecessary details. Kelly found the furniture to be “simple and well-structured and in the same categories that I like to make paintings,” inspiring him to make his first of many Shaker purchases. Kelly and his partner, photographer Jack Shear, lived with and used these objects in their Columbia County, NY, home until 2015 when they were donated to the Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon upon Kelly’s death. This July, the New Britain Museum of American Art presents an exhibition of this unique Ellsworth Kelly and Jack Shear Shaker Collection with a selection of iconic Kelly prints from the 1960s through the 1980s.
The Shaker objects included provide an overview of Shaker design and aesthetics. Featured will be Kelly’s first Shaker acquisition, a nine-foot long worktable purchased in 1970 and used throughout his life. A rare oval box is reminiscent of shapes that can be found in Kelly’s prints, as are the simple lines of a two-drawer chest or the curved slats of a chair. This juxtaposition of the curved and the straight is a hallmark of Kelly’s work. Although Kelly did not draw direct inspiration from the simplicity of Shaker design, the aesthetic resonated harmoniously with his art. Looking back, it was easy for him to find parallels between works he had created and the colors, shapes, and organizational design of Shaker pieces with which he lived.
When talking about his approach to making art in relation to Shaker design in 2010, Kelly discussed the reductive quality inherent in both, noting that it is not what has been taken out of a painting or object, but it is what has not been put in. Line and Curve provides a unique opportunity to observe the balance of simplicity and harmony that exists in both Kelly’s prints and Shaker works.
Line and Curve: The Ellsworth Kelly and Jack Shear Shaker Collection from Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon with Prints by Ellsworth Kelly was developed by Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon and Jeff Bailey Gallery.