RIP Ellsworth Kelly

Ellsworth Kelly, left and Richard Serra, right at Gagosian Gallery, 2011.

In early 2011, I was in an elevator in NYC and an elderly man turned to me and asked, “You’re a photographer, aren’t you?” I wasn’t carrying a camera and was taken aback. He ‘could see it in my eyes,’ he told me. I was looking for the ‘decisive moment,’ he told me. I was flattered to have even a perfunctory comparison to Cartier-Bresson.

When the man got off the elevator, another rider turned to me and asked, “Do you know who that was?”

It was Ellsworth Kelly.

I was saddened to hear that he passed away last week at the age of 92. His prolific career spanned 70 years and his works of geometric minimalism inspired countless young artists. His work was shockingly simple, yet profound, once you let it live the life it asked for.

Ground Zero, Ellsworth Kelly, 2003, collage. (side note:Medium green!)

My epiphany came after seeing his piece Ground Zero, 2003 in MoMA PS1's exhibition September 11, curated by Peter Eleey.

Last night, I finally had a chance to dig up an image I took of him, talking with another great, Richard Serra, at an opening a few months after our elevator encounter. Ellsworth and I kept up correspondence, albeit a small one, after sending him a copy. I found it incredibly meaningful and I quickly came to appreciate his greatness.

Here’s an interview with him from 2013:

What a massive talent. RIP.