American, b. 1923
Oil on canvas
203.2 x 128.3 cm (80 x 50 1/2 inches)
The Albert Pilavin Memorial Collection of 20th-Century American Art 68.053
Ellsworth Kelly’s work bridges Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, and Color Field painting. His abstract canvases feature large, geometric forms or planes of little or no pictorial depth. In Pole, Kelly observes the shadow cast on the ground by a telephone pole. The painting is abstract, but the figure-ground relationship points to light and shadow. Contrary to the norm, here the white areas become the figure and the black become the ground. Expansive white shapes, which seem to extend beyond the limits of the canvas, underscore the clean borders between elements characteristic of “hard-edge” painting. Soon after completing Pole, Kelly moved away from black-and-white organic silhouettes to create one-color, one panel pieces or multiple-canvas works with large, flat planes of color.