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Ken Kelly


Untitled, Ken Kelly’s latest series, consists of five large-scale canvases—bold abstractions of explosive color and sumptuous texture.

© 2012 Ken Kelly, Eyes and Ears (detail), 84" x 96", oil on canvas. Photo by John Hollingsworth
© 2012 Ken Kelly, Eyes and Ears (detail), 84" x 96", oil on canvas. Photo by John Hollingsworth
  • January 8 - 29, 2015
  • Opening: Thursday, January 8

These works revisit the more immediate, less cerebral approach to painting that marked Ken Kelly’s early career.

For viewers acquainted with Kelly’s paintings, the palette and surfaces of the new canvases present a significant departure from his more familiar work, where oblique references to low-brow influences (heavy-metal music and tattoos) were fused into dreamy rhythmic compositions of remarkable elegance. The new paintings consist of irregular blocks of robust color set in a vacuous black (or airy grey) surround. If they evoke any reference beyond the joy of emersion into color and texture, Kelly’s abstractions bring to mind folk textiles rooted in the deep South, or a bold built environment.

Kelly’s artist statement proffers something akin to a disclaimer, “These painting don’t really lend themselves to statements. They don’t “reference” anything; they don’t “address issues” of anything. They don’t do much more than occupy space on a wall and, more importantly, in your eyes. I approached them in the beginning with nothing in mind, other than trying to walk back the past several years and return to the kind of immediate, physical and rather loud painting with which I began almost 40 years ago. Now, a couple of years into this series, I realize that they are really about pleasure–the pleasure of looking, of seeing, of making, and getting lost in the hedonistic excess of it all. And that is all.”

About the Artist

Ken Kelly was born in Magnolia, Arkansas (he retains a subtle drawl). He studied fine art at the University of Georgia and the University of Arizona.Kelly moved to Seattle in the mid-1980s. His numerous awards include SAM’s Betty Bowen Award, two Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grants, a Seattle Arts Commission Award, and recognition as a Neddy Finalist from the Behnke Foundation. His paintings are included in many public and private collections.