The work of one of the most influential post-war artists of the 20th century is coming to the Pendleton Center for the Arts.
The exhibit, “Ellsworth Kelly: From the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation,” opens on Thursday in the East Oregonian Gallery with a reception from 6-7:30 p.m. at 214 N. Main St., Pendleton. It includes examples of his hard-edged color forms, his plant contour prints and a selection from his river series.
The all-ages event is free and open to the public.
Born in New York in 1923, Kelly created paintings, sculpture and prints over a 70-year career. His parents, skeptical that art could provide a living wage, agreed to pay his tuition at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn only if he studied technical art.
Kelly served during World War II in the 603rd Engineers Camouflage Battalion’s Ghost Army where he designed military propaganda posters and camouflage patterns and learned the art of silk-screen printing. After the war, he studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston on the G.I. Bill. Kelly then spent five years in Paris, studying everything from Romanesque architecture and Turkish art to Chinese calligraphy. He had his first exhibit there in 1951.
His practice of “transcribing” the structural essences of random, found objects formed the basis for much of his lifelong artistic exploration. Kelly is best known for his hard-edged, abstract contours that are sharp and precise. In the 1960s, Kelly began applying his approach to color, form and line to printmaking.
Relentless about producing work until his last days, Kelly had a respiratory condition that kept him tethered to a machine. He died in 2015 in New York at the age of 92.
Area art enthusiasts continue to benefit from connections established between Jordan Schnitzer and Pendleton.
Over the past few years, the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation has lent major works by Chuck Close and Louise Bourgeois for exhibitions at Pendleton Center for the Arts.
“Making great art accessible is my passion, and I hope that everyone in the community visits to understand why Ellsworth Kelly is recognized as a master of contemporary art,” he said.
The Pendleton exhibit is one of more than 110 exhibits in 150 museums that Schnitzer’s foundation has sponsored over the past 25 years. Through the foundation’s support, many class groups will have an opportunity to visit the gallery, and schools will receive books about Kelly and his work, said Roberta Lavadour, arts center executive director. She is excited to be a part of the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation’s outreach efforts.
“It’s incredibly gratifying to see people in the community form a deep appreciation for an artist’s work after seeing it in person,” she said. “To see a local kid come in and connect with a great work of art, coming to understand that art and culture is not something that’s above them or beyond their reach — that’s one of the best parts of my job.”
Schnitzer attended his first Pendleton Round-Up in 1987. He expressed appreciation for the town’s hospitality and cherishes friendships made with people in Pendleton.
“I feel like it’s my second home,” Schnitzer said.
The free exhibit will remain on display through May 3. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. Groups can make arrangements for after-hours visits. For more information, contact email@example.com, 541-278-9201 or www.pendletonarts.org.