Lee Kelly | Late Paintings With Elephant

Lee Kelly I Yucatán Revisited: Memorial Exhibition at Elizabeth Leach Gallery June 4 - July 2

06.04.2022 3:00-5:00pm PLACE
06.04.2022 3:00-5:00pm Elizabeth Leach Gallery Yucatán Revisited: Memorial Exhibition
06.05.2022 12:00-2:00 / 4:00-6:00pm PLACE


PLACE is pleased to present Lee Kelly’s Late Paintings With Elephant, an exhibition of his final two series of paintings (2014-2019) and a major freestanding sculpture, Joe Tusker (1986). Like many artists of his generation, Kelly began as a painter in the then-dominant Abstract Expressionist idiom before abandoning it in the early 1960s to develop his own formal language of constructed sculpture.

That language was often based on elemental geometric forms and, while highly abstracted, Kelly’s sculpture often touched on architectural and representational tropes. Here, in Joe Tusker I & II (1986). an assortment of planes, triangles and arcs cohere into an unmistakably elephantine silhouette, only to dissolve, from other angles, into abstraction.

Somewhat surprisingly, Kelly returned to painting late in his career, with the series One Through Nine in 2014, followed the next year by Observatory at Jaipur. Late Paintings With Elephant continues that progression with Kelly’s final two series of paintings, executed between 2014 and 2016, that go beyond the Jaipur works in the presentation of elemental forms suspended in a diaphanous pictorial space.

An illustrated catalog accompanies the exhibition, published by Leland Iron Works Press.

Proceeds from sales of Late Paintings With Elephant will go to The Lee Kelly Fund at the Oregon Community Foundation, a fund dedicated to supporting research and exhibition of the work of Lee Kelly and Bonnie Bronson.

Lee Kelly (1932-2022) was born in McCall, Idaho and trained at the Museum Art School in Portland (now the Pacific Northwest College of Art), interrupting his studies to serve in the U.S. Air Force in South Korea in 1952-53. Returning to Portland, Kelly and his wife Bonnie Bronson purchased a farm property in Oregon City where they built their home and studios, named “Leland Iron Works” in homage to David Smith. There, for more than six decades, he synthesized modernist aesthetics and ancient architectural forms in welded steel sculptures inspired by his travels throughout Asia, India and Central and South America. He is recognized in the Northwest for large-scale works in stainless and weathering steel which remain a central focus at regional institutions such as Reed College, Oregon State University, Catlin Gabel School, Oregon Health and Sciences University, and the University of Oregon. In 2012, one of his most important works, Memory 99, was installed in Portland’s North Park Blocks, at the Pacific Northwest College of Art. In 2010, he was the subject of a major retrospective at the Portland Art Museum, with a career-spanning monograph. His works are included in the collections of the Portland Art Museum; Stanford University; New Orleans Art Museum; Seattle Art Museum; University of Houston; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; and the City of Sapporo, Japan among others.

The Estate of Lee Kelly is represented by Elizabeth Leach Gallery, Portland, Oregon.

Artwork inquiries: art@elizabethleach.com

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