Ellsworth Kelly

White Form (2012)

Painted aluminum
80 x 71.75 x 4.25 inches – Edition 1 of 2

Entry A on the Hall of Fame Level

Playfulness, pragmatism and perfection come together in Ellsworth Kelly’s White Form (2012). A modest piece of perfection, this refreshingly simple abstraction combines the honest, no-nonsense pragmatism of everyday life with the open-ended possibilities of play, whether that puts you in mind of a kid’s cartoony doodle or a whip-smart improvisation made by a master at the top of his game. White Form is both. And more. It was acquired for the collection at the 2×2 auction benefitting amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, and the Dallas Museum of Art.

As a work of art, Kelly’s monochrome abstraction couldn’t be much simpler: one color, one texture and flatter than a pancake, its edges are defined by two lines, a short, straight, vertical one smack dab in its center with a long curved one whose ends link up with the ends of the little one. Together, the two lines form the border of a shape that resembles the letter “C,” especially if you imagine that that letter was a fully inflated balloon.

The flat face of Kelly’s White Form, an approximately 7-by-6-foot expanse of perfectly smooth aluminum that is 4.25 inches deep, conflicts with the big gentle curve of its silhouette. This creates subtle tension between the work’s actual dimensions and its suggestion of even greater volume.

It’s impossible to say whether White Form is a shaped painting or a wall-mounted sculpture. The words we usually use to describe things fail to capture the complexity of Kelly’s elusive work. Equally important, the purposefulness of pragmatism and the purposelessness of play begin to seem as if they may not be opposites. Instead, they form a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. With great efficiency, no pyrotechnics and even less fanfare, Kelly’s wonderfully understated piece of pristine whiteness short-circuits expectations and derails language as it rewards viewers for paying attention to otherwise incidental details. Perfection never looked better nor more accessible.

Return to Collection