Ingres, Ellsworth Kelly face-to-face at Rome expo

18th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Rome's Villa Medicis gallery on Sunday unveils an unusual faceoff between French neo-classical painter Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres and American abstract artist Ellsworth Kelly.

At first the juxtaposition seems to reveal no commonality between the two artists, with four works by Ingres including "Portrait of Desdeban" (1810) hanging on one side, and Kelly's "Blue Curves," completed just last year, on the other.

Next, under the museum's imposing high-vaulted ceiling, are six works by Kelly of nearly identical composition.

Titled "Black Curve in Relief," "Red Curve in Relief" and so on, each is made up of a solid-coloured canvas atop a blank canvas, with the upper one forming a barely perceptible curve, "as if it were part of a huge circle," curator Eric de Chassey said at a media preview of the show.

"It is not an intellectual confrontation, but more of a mental confrontation using visual memory: the memory of a work inhabits the gaze carried over to the other," he said.

Kelly himself, aged 87, chose to exhibit alongside Ingres, a former boarder and then director of the Villa Medicis, which has housed the French Academy in Rome since 1803.

He selected the Ingres works in the show from among several French museums, including the Louvre and the Musee Ingres in Montauban, in southwestern France.

It is in their drawings that the bond between the two artists becomes clearer, notably in "the relationship to contours and form," De Cassey said.

"A thing that is well drawn is always pretty well painted," Ingres is quoted as saying.

Kelly offers a first glimpse of his "private" drawings, including one of the face of his father on his deathbed.

De Chassey replaced Frederic Mitterrand as Villa Medicis director after the latter left in September to become France's culture minister.

He plans to make an annual summer event of having a modern artist choose one from the past as a co-exhibitor.

The show runs through September 26.

© 2010 AFP

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