The New York-born Kelly connects American and European art in a very interesting way. His large formats are typically American, but he also adapted very intensive European influences while in Paris between 1948 and 1954. Black with White Bar II from 1971 is an example which bears some of these traces.
In this painting, a plain white painted canvas and a flat black painted canvas come together. Or is it really more of a wall ornament? Kelly himself expresses it in pictorial terms. The edges of the two canvases replace painted contours, he says. Not unlike the cutout shapes of Henri Matisse’s La perruche et la Sirène (1952-1953), the large paper cut-out in the collection of the Stedelijk.
Beginning in 1950, Kelly found real separations more interesting than those simulated in paint. Thus, he anticipated the so-called minimal art of the 1960s. My painting is nothing else than what it is, he says, a painted surface and a support, color, and mass.
With its preference for deep blacks, bright colors, and intense white, Kelly follows in the tradition of Matisse and sets himself apart from the majority of the Abstract Expressionists, his contemporaries. According to Kelly, they clouded their colors by mixing and wet-in-wet painting.
Maurice Rummens, Member of the Research Staff at the Stedelijk