A legend of American art, Ellsworth Kelly created one of the past half-century's most lasting bodies of work by devising his own universally accessible language—an idiom of joyously colorful abstraction whose shapes are born from nature, the body, and other basic ingredients of the human experience. Right until his passing this year at 92 years old, the artist continued to make his internationally sought-after paintings and sculptures out of his spacious home studio in Spencertown, New York. The art establishment heaped honors at his feet.
Just a few years ago, to mark his 90th birthday, the world's foremost museums—from the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Pompidou and the Tate—honored him with solo exhibitions; in Washington, D.C., President Barack Obama bestowed him with the National Medal of Arts.
In the weeks before Kelly's death, to mark the release of Phaidon's essential new monograph Ellsworth Kelly, Artspace editor-in-chief Andrew M. Goldstein visited the artist in his studio for an exclusive series of illuminating interviews about the key themes driving his work. Here, in part one of the four-part series, Kelly discusses one of his presiding inspirations: nature.