Guild Hall: ‘Ellsworth Kelly in the Hamptons’ / August 11 – October 8

Ellsworth Kelly (1923-2015). Red, White and Blue, 1961. Oil on linen. 88 1/4 x 66 9/16 in. (224.2 x 169.1 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Gift of Betty Parsons 70.1582. © Ellsworth Kelly.

“Ellsworth Kelly in the Hamptons” 


Exhibition Takes Rare Look at the Influence

of the Region on the Artist’s Work

Ellsworth Kelly in the Hamptons, a rarely-grouped exhibition of works by artist Ellsworth Kelly, made on the East End, will be on view beginning Saturday, August 11 to Monday, October 8, at Guild Hall Museum, East Hampton. The exhibition is organized by guest curator Phyllis Tuchman, who previously brought to Guild Hall the exhibition Robert Motherwell: The East Hampton Years, 1944-1952. Further, the exhibition coincides with a year of Kelly celebrations, prompted by the opening of the sanctuary, Austin, a site of joy and contemplation designed by the artist and inaugurated posthumously earlier this year at the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas.
Ellsworth Kelly’s sabbaticals in the Hamptons during 1960 and 1961 and a few years later, during 1968 and 1969, were pivotal episodes in the artist’s career, which spanned more than six decades. While based on the East End, Kelly, one of America’s most significant abstractionists, made paintings, sculptures, works on paper, and photographs, including studies of plants , flowers, and even horseshoe crabs as well as images of local farmyard barns. This body of work has, surprisingly, not been previously investigated in any exhibition, and is barely mentioned in most chronologies devoted to his life and art.
Varied in their dimensions, with singular interior shapes and strong colors, these works by Kelly go off in a new direction from what preceded them. The same can also be said of the art he executed at the end of the 1960s. Moreover, many of his shaped canvases were inspired by the barns that the painter photographed in Southampton in 1968. Then too, his palette became bolder and more assertive, the scale of his canvases grew larger, and his preoccupation with shaping established him as a pioneer of the times.
Often employing bright, primary colors, Kelly was a painter, sculptor, and printmaker associated with the golden age of American abstraction. His celebrated work resides in museums the world over, and much of the compelling work Kelly executed in the Hamptons is found in museums in New York and other institutions on the East Coast, but has never been seen all together. Besides belonging to critical moments in Kelly’s career, the paintings, works on paper, and photographs that will be on view at Guild Hall illuminate yet another important chapter in the history of American art that is rooted in the East End.
Ellsworth Kelly was born in Newburgh, New York on May 31, 1923. Raised in Oradell, New Jersey, he attended Dwight Morrow High School in Englewood, New Jersey, where he studied theater with John Travolta’s mother. During World War II, he served in a camouflage unit in France, a country that inspired many of his compelling early works. All told, he studied at Pratt Institute, the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. From the outset of his career, Kelly enjoyed friendships with many other remarkable artists. In 1955, two years after he moved to New York from Paris, he held his first solo show in NYC with the Betty Parsons Gallery. During the late 1960s, Sidney Janis became his dealer. Kelly’s art has been represented by Matthew Marks for many years. After living in the amazing community associated with Coenties Slip, he moved to the Hotel des Artistes, near Central Park. Kelly moved to Spencertown, New York, near the end of the Taconic Parkway, in 1970. The recipient of many prestigious awards and retrospective exhibitions in museums around the world, Kelly passed away at the age of 92 in December 27, 2015. He was married and spent many decades with his partner Jack Shear, who heads the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation.
Checkerboard Film Foundation
Daily screenings of Ellsworth Kelly: Fragments in the Spiga Gallery
This hour-long documentary, shot in High Definition, elucidates the true complexity of Ellsworth Kelly’s work. In following Kelly as he revisits the Paris of his early twenties, the film uncovers early influences which become leitmotifs that he would return to, reiterate, refine, and rework for decades to come. A spinal sequence showing, from A to Z, Kelly’s creation of two wall sculptures commissioned for the new U.S. Embassy in Beijing, provides dramatic thrust to the film. Insightful commentary from scholars and critics helps to round out this definitive portrait of one of the true giants of American art.
Gallery Talk with Phyllis Tuchman, Guest Curator
Saturday, September 8 at 2pm
Phyllis Tuchman is a long time art critic who currently contributes articles and reviews to the New York Times, Artforum, and In the past, she has written for Smithsonian, Town & Country, Vogue, New Jersey Monthly, New York Newsday, Art in America, Art + Auction and other publications, as well as the websites Artnet and obit-magazine. A trained art historian, she studied at The Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, and has taught at
Williams College and Hunter College, CUNY. Over the years, Tuchman has curated a number of exhibitions, including surveys of the work of George Segal and Robert Smithson. During the Summer of 2014, for Guild Hall, she was guest curator of Robert Motherwell: The East Hampton Years, 1944-52.
Free Admission
Museum Hours: Through Labor Day: Open 7 days a week from 12–5pm; Labor Day through October 8: Monday, Friday & Saturday 11am–5pm & Sunday 12–-5pm
Principal Sponsors: Dorothy Lichtenstein, Matthew Marks and Jacqueline Tran, Jack Shear
Lead Sponsors: Agnes Gund, Jo Carole and Ronald Lauder, The Noto Family Foundation, Louise and Leonard Riggio, Fern and Lenard Tessler.
Co-Sponsor: The Broad Art Foundation
Additional support from J.P. Morgan
All Museum Programming supported in part by Crozier Fine Arts, Gerry Charitable Trust, The Lorenzo and Mary Woodhouse Trust, The Melville Straus Family Endowment, The Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, and public funds provided by Suffolk County.
Free Admission sponsored by Landscape Details and Bridgehampton National Bank.
GUILD HALL, East Hampton


Guild Hall, one of the first multidisciplinary centers in the country to combine a museum, theater, and education space under one roof, was established in 1931 as a gathering place for community where an appreciation for the arts would serve to encourage greater civic participation. For nearly nine decades, Guild Hall has embraced this open-minded vision and provided a welcoming environment for the public to engage with art exhibitions, performances, and educational offerings. Art and artists have long been the engine of Guild Hall’s activities and the institution continues to find innovative ways to support creativity in everyone.


Guild Hall

158 Main Street, East Hampton, N.Y.
Phone: (631) 324-0806
Box Office: (631) 324-4050
AAQ Resource: Araiys Design Landscape Architects

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