Since the 1940s Ellsworth Kelly has explored the possibilities of abstraction to create paintings and sculptures which reveal an extraordinary vision. On view plant lithographs from the artist's collection. Luca Frei's work can be seen as a series of games; his installations of two- and three-dimensional works may have the semblance of recognisable things - trees, shelves, benches, texts - but these are re-presented in new and unusual configurations.
Plant Lithographs from the Artist's Collection
Ellsworth Kelly, 85 this year, is one of the world’s greatest living artists. Since the 1940s he has explored the possibilities of abstraction to create paintings and sculptures which reveal an extraordinary vision. Kelly's skill in working with form, colour, space and line to create monumental visual statements is a result of his acute spatial sensibility, and an understanding of the potential in the fusion of these elements.
Kelly has always maintained that his elemental abstraction remains rooted in the world in which he lives: in the shapes and forms that surround us and especially in the shadows and spaces between things.
“Since birth we get accustomed to seeing and thinking at the same time. But I think that if you can turn off the mind and look at things only with your eyes, ultimately everything becomes abstract” - Ellsworth Kelly
Throughout his extraordinary career Kelly has always been drawn to nature and beginning in 1949, while living in Paris (and influenced in this choice of subject by Matisse and Arp) he began to draw simple plant and seaweed forms. In his drawing of fruits, flowers and leaves Kelly’s concern is with the essence of each plant, and in their purity of line and shape these lithographic drawings provide a critical link to the character of his abstraction.
In 1954 Kelly returned to America, and a decade later started to make prints. It was then that he created his first group of plant lithographs, nine of which are included in this exhibition. Drawn from Nature presents a survey of the very best of the artist’s work in this medium, made over a 40 year period and selected with generous permission from his own personal collection. In a rare coup for Edinburgh’s Ingleby Gallery these works, with their exquisite provenance, will all be available for sale.
Luca Frei’s work can be seen as a series of games that his audience are invited to join in, only for them to discover he has changed the rules, confounding expectations but delighting with the alternatives offered. His installations of two- and three-dimensional works may have the semblance of recognisable things - trees, shelves, benches, texts - but these are re-presented in new and unusual configurations to provide what curator Charles Esche describes as “literal space for imaginative use” (Cream 3, Phaidon, 2004).
Attempts to tie Frei’s works to a single function or meaning are futile, instead they exist to provide fertile, open-ended points of engagement, animating their surroundings and sparking new ideas, and the memories or past experiences that we bring to them in our heads. This playfulness goes hand in hand with a political undertow, a quietly subversive questioning of order and convention, and an imaginative resistance to the status quo.
Frei’s installation at Ingleby’s smaller street-level gallery space is a play of opposites. Suspended from the ceiling, a tall sculpture made from various bolted lengths of maple plywood recalls the archaic charms of wooden school rulers, an association simultaneously undermined by their random measures and dislocated figurative structure. On the walls, monochromatic graphic works lead the viewer on a dance around the space. These ambiguous images and sculpture balance the linear and the fluid, the measured and the haphazard, to suggest new possibilities for seeing and experiencing the world.
Luca Frei was born in 1976 in Lugano, Switzerland and now lives and works in Sweden. He studied at Edinburgh College of Art and Malmö Art Academy, and this installation will mark his first solo exhibition in the UK since the Italian Cultural Institute in Edinburgh in 2000. Watch Out, a solo show at Studio Dabbeni, Lugano opens just prior to our exhibition (until 27 December, 2008) and other projects in 2008 have included: A Town (Not a City) at Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen; An Archaeology of Longing, at Kadist Art Foundation, Paris; Democracy in America: The National Campaign with Creative Time, New York; and After October at Elizabeth Dee Gallery, New York.
Image: Luca Frei, No Title, 2008, ink on paper 41 x 18 cm paper size
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