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Work of the Week: The Chicago Panels

Throughout his practice, American artist Ellsworth Kelly focused on color, line, and shape as the fundamental components of art to create his signature bold geometric forms. His work appears minimal, at ease within its space, and brilliant in its color experimentation. He hoped for each of his works to respond to their context, adding to or conversing with the space in which it exists. Gracing the Art Institute’s Rice Building are The Chicago Panels, six large, brightly colored panels in the classically-inspired interior. The product of a ten-year process, the six panels defy convention; each shape is slightly askew, which adds an element of the unexpected to the right angles of the Rice Building courtyard. The panels activate the space, providing a color contrast to an otherwise completely white courtyard.

In Kelly's own words:

I have wanted to free shape from its ground, and then to work the shape so that it has a definite relationship to the space around it; so that it has a clarity and a measure within itself of its parts—angles, curves, edges, amount of mass.

See The Chicago Panels in the Rice Building courtyard, and explore Ellsworth Kelly in the online collections.


Installation view of Ellsworth Kelly. The Chicago Panels, 1989/99. Harold L. Stuart Endowment. © Ellsworth Kelly.