Matthew Marks Gallery

Color Panels for a Large Wall


Essay by Christine Mehring

Clothbound with jacket
88 pages
63 images
9¾ × 8½ inches; 25 × 22 cm
ISBN 9781944929145

In 1978 Ellsworth Kelly was commissioned to create a painting for the lobby of a new building in Cincinnati. Color Panels for a Large Wall, the 30-by-125-foot painting that resulted, was the largest work he had ever made. Its trajectory would pass through not just Cincinnati but also Amsterdam, New York, and Munich before reaching its permanent home at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Color Panels for a Large Wall II, painted simultaneously, is a 3½-by-31-foot version that Kelly kept for himself. Christine Mehring’s book tells the complete story of these two remarkable paintings.

In 1950, Kelly wrote to John Cage, “My collages are only ideas for things much larger — things to cover walls.” Color Panels for a Large Wall was a breakthrough in his ambition to create art on the scale of architecture. For the commission, Kelly worked in close collaboration with the building’s architects, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, to make a work that would not only reside in harmony with the space but also stand apart from it, holding the viewer’s attention amid the distractions of a busy lobby. “The visual might of Kelly’s works assures they cannot escape visual attention and concentration,” Christine Mehring writes. “Kelly’s panel paintings summon us to pause and look, to seize his art in the way his eyes seize colors and forms amidst a saturated world.”