Ellsworth Kelly

Concorde IV (State)


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Ellsworth Kelly 1923–2015
Etching and aquatint on paper
Image: 405 × 320 mm
Purchased 1986

Catalogue entry

This catalogue entry discusses a group of works; details of the individual work are given at the end of the introductory text.

Ellsworth Kelly born 1923

P77143 - P77145 The Concorde Series 1981-2

Three etchings with aquatint from a series of fourteen, various sizes, on Arches Cover paper, various sizes; printed by Doris Simmelink, Antony Zapeda, Jacob Samuels and Sarah Todd at Gemini GEL, Los Angeles, and published by Gemini GEL in an edition of l8
Various inscriptions
Purchased from Waddington Graphics (Grant-in-Aid) 1986
Lit: Ruth E. Fine, Gemini G.E.L.: Art and Collaboration, Washington DC and New York 1984, pp.140-1; Richard H. Axsom, The Prints of Ellsworth Kelly, a Catalogue Raisonné, New York 1988, pp.152-9, repr. nos.195a, 197a and 199a

P77145 Concorde IV (State)

Image size 405 x 320 (16 x 12 5/8) on paper 873 x 660 (34 3/8 x 26); plate-mark 404 x 320 (16 x 12 5/8)
Inscribed ‘Kelly' b.r. and ‘9/18 State' b.l.; inscribed ‘EK81-3061A' on back b.l. in another hand; printer's and publisher's stamp b.r. and on back b.l.

The Concorde Series consists of fourteen images printed in black from seven plates. The titles of the prints in the second set of seven include the word ‘State' to denote the fact that they were printed differently (see below). P77143, P77144 and P77145 belong to this second set.

Each of the ‘Concorde' images is based on a fragmented form on a white ground. Kelly first employed the ‘Concorde' shape in 1955 in a work entitled ‘Concorde Study' (Collection Henry Persche, Ghent, New York, repr. John Coplans, Ellsworth Kelly, New York 1973, pl.100). The configuration is similar to those used in P77144 and ‘Concorde I, III, IV and V' in the series (repr. Axsom 1988, nos.196, 198-200 respectively). The black configuration is bordered in the prints by two lightly printed areas and in the painting by two areas of white. ‘Concorde IV' is a variant of this shape where the bottom half has been isolated and reversed and the proportions readjusted.

In answers dated 24 March 1988 to questions posed by the compiler (from which all further unattributed statements are taken) the artist stated that the ‘original painting CONCORDE STUDY, 1955 ... was probably named after the Place de la Concorde in Paris. However, in the later "Concordes" the name relates to the original painting'. The artist lived in Paris at various times between 1949 and 1954. When asked what the title might imply he stated that it implies ‘a place name; a memorable space/form that leads off in many directions', thereby referring to the complexity of the Parisian square and the many possible permutations afforded by its many exits. According to Axsom, Kelly chose ‘the name for the original Concorde form because he thought of it as a harmonious form, which he has also compared to a shade pulled down to close out the light' (p.152).

According to the artist, the forms of P77144 and P77145 are

presented as flat, fragmented forms; CONCORDE II is a fragmented form that may be read as a suggested volume. The tension between the flatness and a suggested volume is never resolved. CONCORDE IV is a further fragment of CONCORDE II; the diagonal suggests an edge vanishing to the horizon. A further ambiguity is presented in the sculpture MIRRORED CONCORDE [1970-1, edition of 12, repr.Patterson Simms and Emily Rauh Pulitzer, Ellsworth Kelly: Sculpture, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York 1982, no. 53]. The fragmented form is cut out of steel and polished to a mirror finish. It can be visualised simultaneously as a flat form, a suggestion of box-like form, and a reflection of a three dimensional world.

In P77144 and P77145 the black figure forms only part of the area bounded by the plate-mark, which is a conventional rectangle. As a result the figure relates not only to the margins of the paper but to a white ‘ground'. The image relates to the paper like a figure to ground or a shape to space. The margins of the paper are considered in as much detail as any other part of the print. The distinction between the standard edition and the ‘state' lies in the white areas within the plate mark. In the ‘state' the white areas were more lightly wiped, leaving a faintly grey tone, thereby emphasising the difference between the 'ground' within the plate and the margins, which themselves represent another field. As Fine has stated:

The function of the sheet (ground) in relation to the image is central to Kelly's concerns. Here it is further complicated by the gray or white area of the plate (ground also, in relation to the black figure): ‘I have wanted to free the shape from its ground, and then to work the shape so that it has a definite relationship to the space around it; so that it has a clarity and a measure within itself of its parts (angles, curves, edges, amount of mass); and so that, with color and tonality, the shape finds its own space and always demands its freedom and separateness' (Fine 1984, p.141).

In addition to ‘Concorde Study' P77144 relates to the following paintings: ‘Black and Red' 1958 (Galerie Adrien Maeght, Paris), ‘Concorde Relief' 1958 (private collection, repr. Simms and Pulitzer 1982, no.28), ‘Concorde I' 1958 (private collection, Detroit), ‘Concorde II' 1958 (private collection), ‘Concorde III' 1960 (private collection). The sculpture ‘Concorde Angle' 1982 (private collection, repr. Simms and Pulitzer 1982, no.117 in col.) was made after the series of prints but was developed ‘from an idea drawn in 1980, of a vertical shadow meeting a horizontal plane; and the "diagonal later revealed to me its similarity to the other "Concorde" paintings'. There are also four works on paper related to the series of prints all of which are in private collections: ‘Blue Study for Concorde' 1955, ‘First Study of Concorde' 1955, ‘Study for Painting' 1958 and ‘Concorde Study' 1957. In addition, the artist executed nine works on paper specifically for the prints ‘Concorde I' and ‘Concorde II' in 1981, all of which are in private collections and entitled ‘Study for Aquatint Concorde'. Four of these consist of more than one image.

P77143 is the second image in ‘The Concorde Series' and was printed and published at the same time as the others but it is not titled in the same manner. One other work has a similar status, namely ‘Square with Black' (repr. Axsom 1988, no.194). P77143 represents a square bisected diagonally into two triangles, the diagonal being drawn from bottom left to top right. The upper triangle is black while the lower triangle remains unprinted. According to the artist this image was a ‘a continuation of working with the diagonal and equal measures of color', a theme he has developed over many years. As Kelly stated:’In all my work there is a recurrent use of certain images ... Drawings, collages and photographs are preliminary studies for paintings and sculptures. Prints are smaller, concise reproductions of the painting and sculpture ideas'. P77143 relates to the following paintings: ‘Two Panels: Black White' 1968 (private collection, repr. Coplans 1973, pl.191) and ‘Two Grays III' 1975-7 (private collection) both of which consist of two joined panels. In addition there are three related works on paper all in private collections: ‘Study for Black White' 1968, ‘Colored Paper Image XV (Dark Gray and Blue)' 1976 (edition of 23) and ‘Study for Diagonal with Curve XIV' 1981. All these images consist of squares divided into two rightangled triangles.

Although Kelly's works are abstract they relate to things he has observed in nature. The artist has sent the compiler xerox copies of photographs he has taken of shadows cast by doorways which, while they ‘do not relate to any specific work ... [do] resemble the "Concorde". I take photographs to document my way of seeing. Photographs are always taken "after the fact"; I find verification of my work in nature'. The three photographs in question, all in private collections, are: ‘Doorway, Belle Isle' 1977, ‘Doorway to Hangar, St Bartholemy' 1977 and ‘Garage Door Shadow, Spencertown' 1981.

‘The Concorde Series' was a development of the image and process of ‘Wall' 1976-9, also an etching with aquatint (repr. Axsom 1988, no.177), in which the form is a parallelogram. Both ‘Wall' and ‘The Concorde Series' are printed in deep, velvety blacks. The artist has stated that ‘I have long admired Picasso's and Matisse's aquatints and wanted to make prints with large areas of very intense black'. Working on the plates for ‘perhaps six months', Kelly drew the interior design of each ‘Concorde' print with a drypoint needle onto a copper plate the rectangular edges of which were were faintly inked to highlight the plate-mark. According to Axsom

The areas of the plate that were not to print in color [black] were masked out with stop-out varnish, and two or more aquatint grounds were applied to the exposed area and etched to achieve a dense, rich black when inked and printed. Foul biting occurred when acid ate though the stop-out that was applied to the white areas and through the aquatint ground. The resulting irregular marks in the copper plates were burnished by hand to mute the effects of the foul biting. Still, the black and white areas appear pitted with cuts and smudges; the toning and burnishing of the plates did not efface all the marks. This process appealed to Kelly, and he cultivated its effects. The Concorde Series prints reveal ... the artist's new interest in surfaces that are not immaculate - a borrowing it would appear, from his sculpture, in which the textural variations of weathering steel and wood are visible (p.152).

This entry has been approved by the artist.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.391-4

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