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An Explosive Piece

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Sherman 1

“An Explosive Piece” Kelsey Sherman Professor Jill Palacki ART 101-53 December 11, 2013

Sherman 2

After visiting the Philadelphia Art Museum, I chose to looking Ellsworth Kelly, and the “November Painting.” Kelly is a Modern American artist from New York. He studied art at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn from 1941-1943, and also studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston from 1946-1948. Kelly travel to France in 1949 and infrequently attended classes at Ecole des beaux-arts where he was introduced to Surrealism and Neo-Plasticism that inspired many of his future art pieces (Guggenheim). Ellsworth Kelly’s “November Painting” was painted in 1950. It is an oil piece painted on wood in a white frame. The only colors that are displayed in the painting are black and white that makes the piece organized and concise, while also creating a nice contrast. The canvas itself is a slightly off-white. The off-white canvas is somewhat textured from the oil paint. Intermittently dispersed across the canvas are small, separate black and white geometric shapes, which unlike the background retain a smooth surface. The shapes are unorganized, and do not seem to be of any particular pattern. The shaped are not identical to each other, making each one unique and completely random. They contain to their own space, and do not intersect with each other (Philadelphia Museum of Art). “November Painting” is an experimental piece that began as a black and white drawling Kelly had developed. He then torn it up and dropped the pieces of paper randomly onto a board. He was intrigued by the outcome of this experiment. The artist then copied the result of this trial into a painting on wood, thus creating the painting that hangs in the museum today (Philadelphia Museum of Art). Ellsworth Kelly’s “November Painting” resembles a Minimalist style. Minimalist art truly represents “art for arts sake.” Minimalism style is a reaction against Abstract Expressionism. “Minimalism is the essence or identity of a subject through eliminating all non-

Sherman 3 essential forms, features, or concepts” (Adams). Key characteristics of minimalism art were the use of geometric forms, simplicity, equality of space, and repetition. Artists that worked in this style believed “more is less, and less is more” (Adams). The Minimalism technique is evident in Kelly’s painting. The shapes that are scattered across the canvas are geometric in style, and simple in forms, which is a characteristic of art of this style. The use of only two colors in the painting reflects the simplicity that minimalists adored and strived for. The painting also maintains a rhythm because it is balanced across the entire canvas (Adams). Although this piece did not directly affect society in a tremendous way or create a movement, “November Painting” does reflect society as a whole during the early 1950’s. The pieces of torn up paper resembles an explosion almost in that they are tiny bits of what was once a whole object. During this time period there are a couple of events that had everybody, not just Americans, questioning explosions. There are countless events that occurred in the years leading up to the creation of Ellsworth Kelly’s painting that left the audience to ponder their own which events may have influenced his artwork. In 1941, the Japanese launched an attack on Pearl Harbor, leading to the United States of America’s involvement in World War II. Viewers cannot help but make that connection when seeing Kelly’s piece because the war had a large impact on lived. Another even that happened was in 1948 when “The Big Bang Theory” was formulated. It was the belief that the universe originated from a catastrophic explosion of matter. This is intriguing and definitely brings the audience to ponder the correlation of this theory and this piece of art. The way the piece started from a drawling, and then torn into pieces resembles the hypothesis that the planets’ existence may have possibly resulted from a crash that dispersed particles throughout the universe (Rosenberg).

Sherman 4 When I sat at the museum and was starting at this painting, a lot of different things went

through my head of what it could represent before I went home and researched further. The mood that I got from this painting was hope, in various different aspects. Knowing that the piece of art was originally mostly all black, it reminded me of a dark place, and related it to my seasonal depression, which fits right into the month of November. It was than taken and mixed with the white, and off-white pieces that made me think about the representation of breaking out of that depression and looking at things on a brighter scale. Another feeling of hope and unity was thinking how it various pieces, which together, even though separately, was still a cohesive and organized whole. It reminded me of life, and how event though we are all separate pieces, which are unique and different, we are one whole in the bigger picture. At first glance something that seemed pointless, and retained no meaning, turned out to be really insightful. Experiencing the “November Painting” in person I feel had a much bigger effect, than if I had looked at it in the textbook. Being there and seeing it up close was an experience that you can’t feel or relate to as much as seeing a picture. This painting definitely made me ponder life on a while new level. I liked how I really had to think about the art to understand and make a connection. It wasn’t as simple as looking at it an instantly knowing what it meant. I think Ellsworth Kelly used Formalism, and Emotionalism theories. He tried and experiment, and emphasized moods, and symbols. Initially when people look at it, like me, they probably will not feel or see anything special about this painting. I think if they give it a chance, just stare, and experience it like I did. They could find similar, or whole new meanings that personally fit their lives. I definitely feel Kelly’s work is valuable especially using my own feelings, and the background of how to painting came to be.

Sherman 5 Works Cited Adams, Laurie Schneider. Art across Time: Prehistory to the Fourteenth Century. 4th ed. Vol. 1. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print. "Ellsworth Kelly." Guggenheim Museum. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Apr. 2013. Web. 01 Nov. 2013. . "Philadelphia Museum of Art - Information : History." Philadelphia Museum of Art – Information : History. Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2013. Web. 01 Nov. 2013. . Rosenberg, Jennifer. "1940s Timeline." History 1900s. About.com, n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2013. .

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