Plants, Flowers and Fruits: Ellsworth Kelly Lithos at the Norton Simon beginning Apr. 23

The Los Angeles-area is filled with astounding art museums, some quite grand like The Getty and The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), but I prefer the smalled venues, off the beaten track and much more intimate in experience.

For me, the Getty Villa in Malibu overlooking the ocean and Pasadena’s Huntington Library and the Norton_Simon_Museum are my personal favorites. They are easy to access and house some incredible collections.

Now The Norton Simon Museum has announced a new exhibition of twenty lithographs of botanical subjects by American artist Ellsworth Kelly (b. 1923) on view from April 23, 2010 through August 23, 2010.

Leah Lehmbeck, Assistant Curator at the Norton Simon Museum, has organized this exhibition.

According to the museum, Kelly was best known for his large-scale, color field paintings, Plants, Flowers and Fruits showcases his equally compelling efforts in the print medium.

His art was executed on paper like a drawing then transferred to a lithography stone. These prints present simple black lines that delineate pears, cyclamen and magnolia petals, among other subjects.

All of the specimens have been enlarged to allow for close scrutiny, but Kelly has depicted them without any distracting scientific details.

The Simon says: “Part botanical renderings, part abstract drawings, Kelly’s simplified, confident depictions of plants reflect how strongly the artist’s minimalism is rooted in the natural world.”

Kelly’s first artistic examinations of the natural and built environments were taken from observations of where he lived in New Jersey. Architectural features such as doorways and windowpanes were simplified by the artist into a minimal number of lines, squares and arches.

Likewise, leaves, stems and petals provided inspiration, and alongside his early trials in abstraction, Kelly continued to make drawings from nature.

The Simon says: “Kelly’s earliest drawings on the subject date to his high school years. He later recalled of them, ‘The drawings from plant life seem to be the bridge to the way of seeing that brought about the paintings in 1949 that are the basis for all of my later work.’ “

Kelly’s initial series of 28 transfer lithographs, entitled “Suite of Plant Lithographs” (1964–66), marked the beginning of a robust body of work that would grow to 72 prints and countless drawings of foliage.

Paradoxically, these works also fueled his most minimal artistic experiments. At the time that he executed this first series of prints, for example, he was working on his first series of abstract prints, employing the vibrant colors and geometric shapes that would eventually define his career.