Ellsworth Kelly: Changing Perceptions

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UNLV art student, Anna Ortega, at The Barrick Museum.

There are days when a simple wander into The Barrick Museum will give a student a new way of seeing things. “I was just enjoying the day and came in to see what was in,” said Anny Ayala Ortega, 19, an art major and regular visitor to the contemporary museum on the UNLV campus.

She spent some time with Ellsworth Kelly, especially the 2013 lithographs Black, Red, Blue, and Deep Purple.

“I was staring at it and at first I didn’t see anything. Then I saw things I see in everyday life,” Ortega said. “One reminded me of a laptop. The other…they looked like tombstones. I’m not sure why.” The emerging gallery-goer thought about it and realized the simple shapes said a lot to her. She thought about the references prompted by Kelly’s lithographs.  Since she is a graphic designer and needs vision to work seeing a laptop and tombstone was a bit like “death to the eyes”

She points to her glasses and said  “I’m always afraid that in the future of losing my eyesight.”

That’s deep meaning coming out from the hard shapes. Yet, not far from how Kelly himself approached his work. When the artist began reconsidering objects as abstract shapes with hard clean lines, it was, as the New York Times reported, a mix of seeing “chance elements and references to nature, which he defined as everything seen in the real world.”

Kelly started to look at patterns he saw in the city and that became his source. “I realized I didn’t want to compose pictures,” Kelly told the New York Times in 1996. ”I wanted to find them. I felt that my vision was choosing things out there in the world and presenting them. To me the investigation of perception was of the greatest interest. There was so much to see, and it all looked fantastic to me.”

While Kelly passed away in December at the age of 92, his perception is being passed on.

“I’m not so savvy with fine arts but I’m impressed,” said Ortega. “We see shapes, and it reminds me that I think I do that a lot in everyday life too.” Then the UNLV student considered what creating art means.

“We shouldn’t make artwork based only on things we enjoy and for ourselves,” she said, “but also art that others can enjoy and relate to.”

By Ed Fuentes, an UNLV MFA Fine Art candidate who produces Paint This Desert, a regional arts blog.

Exhibition: Ellsworth Kelly  Through May 14, 2016.

Talk: Printmaking with Ellsworth. March 16, 2016. 6pm.

Film Screening: Ellsworth Kelly: Fragments (Saturdays, 1 p.m. Through May 14, 2016)

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