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Did you know? Rothko and Kelly edition

In anticipation of Mark Rothko’s No. 1, White and Red and Ellsworth Kelly’s White Blue going on view together soon, we put together some highlights for AGOinsider’s first Did you know? guide to art and artists.

Mark Rothko. No. 1, White and Red

Mark Rothko. No. 1, White and Red, 1962. Oil on canvas, Overall: 259.1 x 228.6 cm. Gift from the Women's Committee Fund, 1962. © Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / SOCAN (2021)

Beloved collection favourites, Mark Rothko’s No. 1, White and Red (1962) and Ellsworth Kelly’s White Blue (1960) are on display for the first time in over a decade!   Exhibited alongside major canvases by Helen Frankenthaler, Morris Louis and Kenneth Lochhead, these paintings are part of an installation in the Philip B. Lind Gallery on Level 1; it tells the story of how the influential American art critic Clement Greenberg and his 1964 exhibition Post Painterly Abstraction helped reshape the direction of 20th century painting.  

And while we can’t commune with these works just yet, there’s no reason we can’t be prepared.
Presenting the AGOinsider’s first Did you know? guide to art and artists.   

Ellsworth Kelly. White Blue

Ellsworth Kelly. White Blue, 1960. Oil on canvas, Overall: 215.9 x 172.7 cm. Gift from the Women's Committee Fund, 1963. © Ellsworth Kelly Foundation, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery.

DID YOU KNOW? 

  • The AGO and abstract painting go way back. Featuring 31 works, Clement Greenberg’s 1964 exhibition Post Painterly Abstraction debuted at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), travelled to the Walker Art Centre in Minneapolis and then came here, to our very own AGO.
     
  • What Greenberg calls Post Painterly Abstract art is actually two kinds of paintings: some with flowing, liquid colours and others with crisp, linear designs. Both types of painting are big and flat, and they seem to expand and contract optically with their active, vibrating surfaces.
     
  • Clement Greenberg celebrated the openness of Rothko’s geometrically structured canvases, even though they are technically Abstract Expressionist paintings; noting how these works expanded and breathed into surrounding spaces, he argued that they anticipated Post Painterly Abstraction.
     
  • Although abstract in appearance, Kelly’s painting is related to a drawing he made of an apple.  Greenberg championed Kelly’s anonymous execution and his use of high-keyed colours in this and related paintings. 
  • 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas. Home to 14 Rothko paintings, the octagonal shaped non-denominational chapel is well worth the trip. 
  • During WWII, Kelly served in the U.S. Army’s top secret 23rd division, or ‘Ghost Army’, deceiving enemy intelligence with inflatable tanks, decoy radio transmissions and artistic imagination.
     
  • Kelly and Rothko can also be seen side-by-side…as stamps, courtesy the U.S. postal service.

Hungry for more? Be sure to stay tuned to AGOinsider for more art-inspired conversation.    

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