Painter, sculptor and printmaker Ellsworth Kelly (1923–2015) will be honored with designs showing 10 of his distinctive artworks in panes of 20 Forever stamps paying the domestic letter rate (currently 55¢) to be dedicated on May 31 in the hamlet of Spencertown, New York. Less than 80 miles north of his birthplace in Newburgh, New York, Spencertown is where Kelly had worked since 1970 and where he passed away at the age of 92.
Ellsworth Kelly at a Los Angeles art museum opening in 2008. Image by Jeremiah Garcia, used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
The May 31 stamp dedication ceremony will take place at the Ellsworth Kelly Studio, presided over by U.S. Postal Service Vice President of Marketing Steven W. Monteith and Kelly’s partner Jack Shear, who now heads the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation.
“Characterized by precise shapes rendered in bold, flat colors, Ellsworth Kelly’s art encompasses painting, sculpture and works on paper, drawing on careful observations of light and shadow, negative space and line and form.” a USPS biography states. “In painting shapes—like a tennis court, a smokestack on a tugboat, or the roof of a barn—as flat planes of color, Kelly removed their dimensionality and turned reality into abstraction. He was also one of the first artists to create shaped canvases and to integrate art with modern architecture, taking great care about the size of a painting, its boundaries, and its placement in relation to the walls and floor.
“Kelly pioneered a distinctive style of abstraction based on real elements reduced to their essential forms.”
The 20 stamps on the pane feature 10 pieces of art, each represented twice: Yellow White (1961), Colors for a Large Wall (1951), Blue Red Rocker (1963), Spectrum I (1953), South Ferry (1956), Blue Green (1962), Orange Red Relief (for Delphine Seyrig) (1990), Meschers (1951), Red Blue (1964) and Gaza (1956).
A detail from Blue Yellow Red III (1971) appears on the left side of the selvage of the 20-stamp sheet, shown nearby. Derry Noyes served as art director and designer for this issue.
According to the brief biography posted by Matthew Marks Gallery of New York City and Los Angeles, “In a career spanning almost seventy years, Ellsworth Kelly redefined abstraction in art, evading critical attempts to classify him as a Color Field, hard-edge, or Minimalist painter. Beginning in the late 1940s, he established himself through his drawings, paintings, sculptures, and prints as one of the most important artists of his era.
“His visual vocabulary was drawn from observation of the world around him — shapes and colors found in plants, architecture, shadows — and has been shaped by his interest in the spaces between places and objects, and between his work and its viewers: ‘In my work I don’t want you to look at the surface; I want you to look at the form, the relationships.’”
Kelly has been the subject of major exhibitions at The Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and his work is in major museums in Paris, Madrid and London.
If you have seven minutes to spare and would like a better feel for Kelly and his work, you can view a short tribute by Matthew Miller at https://vimeo.com/187875053 . It includes Kelly’s influential early stint as a U.S. Army camouflage painter before D-Day in World War II, crafting parts of a “Ghost Army” of inflatable tanks and fold-up fake aircraft that fooled German reconnaissance into believing that the Western Allies would not invade Europe at Normandy.
According to the website http://www.ghostarmylegacyproject.org , Kelly “isn’t the first Ghost Army artist to be featured on USPS stamps. Arthur Singer (with son Alan) did the artwork for the famous Birds and Flowers of the 50 States stamps introduced in 1982 [Scott 2002b & 2002Ac], and George Vander Sluis designed an iconic airmail stamp brought out in 1971 [the 11¢ carmine Silhouette of Jet Airliner, Scott C78 & C82]. Kelly, however, is the first Ghost Army artist to be honored by name in a series [sic] of postal stamps — quite a tribute!”
Customers have 120 days to obtain the first-day-of-issue postmark by mail. They may purchase the new stamps at their local post office or at usps.com/shop. They must affix the stamps to envelopes of their choice, address the envelopes to themselves or others, and place them in a larger envelope with the required postage addressed to
FDOI — Ellsworth Kelly Stamps
Stamp Fulfillment Services
8300 NE Underground Drive, Suite 300
Kansas City, MO 64144-9900
After applying the first-day-of-issue postmark, the Postal Service will return the envelopes through the mail. There is no charge for up to 50 first day covers, but there a 5¢ charge for each additional postmark over 50. All orders must be postmarked by September 31, 2019.