Ellsworth Kelly

One of the artists that came to mind while we were discussing data visualization was Ellsworth Kelly. Although he doesn’t translate data in his artwork, I think his work still has a quality about it that resembles the process of data visualization.

I saw a collection of his work from when he lived in Paris and New York from 1949 to 1959 in the PMA a few weeks ago. This work was very geometric and minimalistic, as all his work is, but it lacked the color that he usually used. These paintings were completely done in black and white, and were modeled after Paris streetscapes and buildings.

One painting in particular stood out to me and it was this painting, Seine.

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The painting represents lights flickering on the River Seine. However Kelly incorporated chance into the process of painting, which is something he began to do a lot during this period. The canvas was made into a grid with hundreds of small squares, and for each column, Kelly would pull a number out of a hat to determine which squares in each column to paint. If you look at each column, from the outside inwards, you can see that he starts with one square, then two, then three, etc.

Kelly was collecting data by recording what numbers he pulled and it produced a really fascinating result.

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