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Ellsworth Kelly’s Basic Training

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Tim Keane writes about the new volume of the Ellsworth Kelly Catalogue Raisonné that focuses on Kelly's early work from 1940–1953.

Keane writes: "Before the reader’s eyes, Kelly is transforming himself from a middle-of-the road figurative painter into an innovative, lyrical abstractionist gradually branching out into mixed media works and relief sculptures… the catalogue offers reproductions of rarely seen student works — extensive drawings and studies along with somber portraits and moody landscapes enlivened with European avant-garde conceits; Paul Gauguin and Max Beckmann are named as foundational influences. [Yves-Alain] Bois’s analyses of Kelly’s art school realism emphasizes how these naively naturalistic works portend the stripped-down semi-abstractions that were soon to come. After taking in the book’s entirety, the lucky reader will be tempted, as I was, to go back to these student works and seek covert abstract effects underpinning the representational elements."

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