Andrew Lambirth

Taking shape

The Serpentine Gallery is a pleasure to visit, which makes it all the more frustrating that its exhibition programme in recent years has been so dominated by the modish and ephemeral. Thankfully, from time to time, an exhibition of real worth manages to squeeze past the art censors. American painters seem to have fared better recently than the British, with memorable shows by Brice Marden (2000), Dan Flavin (2001), Cy Twombly (2004) and now Ellsworth Kelly. Kelly is billed as one of the greatest living artists, and was last shown in this country in any depth when his 1997 retrospective came to the Tate. This show features just 18 new works, all made since 2002 and personally selected by the artist. The Serpentine is a perfect setting for these joyous abstracts, apparently minimal yet rich in association and aesthetic impact.

Ellsworth Kelly was born in Newburgh, New York, in 1923, and studied in New York and Boston, before moving to Paris, like so many Americans before him. The Paris years (1948–54) were crucial to his development as an abstract painter, for there he met such guiding figures as Arp, Brancusi and Mir

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