With its vivid arc of azure blue set against a white ground, Blue Curve IV is a striking example of Kelly’s paintings of single geometric forms. The work belongs to a group of five paintings of similar scale made in 1972. Each contains a radial curve painted in a single color against a white or black ground, sweeping from the lower left to the upper right of a nearly square canvas.
As with all of his work, Kelly was methodical in preparing the 1972 series. A related study indicates the radius for the curve in each painting; the longer the radius, the gentler the curve’s slope. The same arc used in Blue Curve IV appears again in Curve II, a large-scale steel sculpture made the following year.
“Hovering, too, around Kelly’s circular forms is a hint of sensuality, a byplay between curved forms relating to the human body as well as to geometry.”
—John Coplans, 1971
Study for Red Curves, 1954
“The plant drawings… are exact observations of the form of the leaf or flower or fruit seen. Nothing is changed or added: no shading, no surface marking. They are not an approximation of the thing seen, nor are they a personal expression or an abstraction. They are an impersonal observation of the form.”
—Ellsworth Kelly, 1969
“Ellsworth Kelly’s drawings provoke as much as delight the eye. Does the artist need the world to rescue him from the strictures of abstraction? Or does he turn to abstraction as an antidote to the fatal attraction of things in the world?
Simplification of form in Kelly’s case does not reduce the enlivening tension that evokes the presence of the organic.”
—Linda Nochlin, 1999
Swim Suits, 1959
“Kelly’s art is at once extremely austere and utterly delectable. It abounds in bold, delicious color — bright blocks of color that fill the eye with an intensity of concentration unlike anything else in contemporary art — yet it employs forms of such radical simplicity that they will not seem like forms at all to eyes unused to fathoming the special pictorial language the artist has made his own.”
—Hilton Kramer, 1973
Red on Blue, 1963