When Ellsworth Kelly Was Here

Ellsworth Kelly spent time in Springs in 1960 and 1961 and in Bridgehampton in 1968 and 1969
Ellsworth Kelly’s “White Alice” was painted while he was living in Springs in 1960.

While Ellsworth Kelly is as not readily associated with the Hamptons as such other notable painters as Jackson Pollock or Willem de Kooning, he in fact spent time in Springs in 1960 and 1961 and in Bridgehampton in 1968 and 1969. 

“While Kelly’s stays in the Hamptons at the beginning and the end of the 1960s were not particularly lengthy, his art changed considerably during the time he spent out here,” said Phyllis Tuchman, guest curator of “Ellsworth Kelly in the Hamptons,” which will open on Saturday at Guild Hall.

While based on the East End, Kelly, who died in December 2015, made paintings, sculpture, works on paper, and photographs, including studies of plants, flowers, and horseshoe crabs as well as photographs of potato barns. Those works, with singular interior shapes and strong colors, marked a change in direction for Kelly, but they have not been previously exhibited as a group and are seldom mentioned in most accounts of his life and art.

“What he executed as the 1960s drew to a close touched upon aspects of post-painterly abstraction, shaped-canvas painting, systems art, and Minimalism,” according to Ms. Tuchman. Some of the geometric shapes in his paintings could be seen in his photographs of Bridgehampton barns.

Kelly’s paintings will be grouped in one gallery, his works on paper, collages, photographs, studies for paintings, and three small driftwood sculptures in frames will be in another. “It’s the first time we can see his colorful abstractions on one place and the representational imagery in another,” said Ms. Tuchman.

While on the South Fork, “Besides escaping the hot months in New York City, he made lasting friendships with fellow artists James Rosenquist and Roy Lichtenstein,” Ms. Tuchman said. “For Ellsworth Kelly, being in the Springs and Bridgehampton was a win-win situation.”

“Ellsworth Kelly in the Hamptons” will be on view through Oct. 8.