At first glance, the work of abstract printmaker Ellsworth Kelly and devoutly disciplined Shaker woodworkers would seem to have little in common. But they shared one overriding philosophy: less is more.
“When people say, ‘oh, you’ve taken so much out,’ I say, ‘I just don’t put it in’,” Kelly once said of his own work. The Shakers shared the same strict dedication to minimalism and simplicity.
Kelly was an avid collector of Shaker furniture. Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon (N.Y.) has combined pieces of Shaker furniture collected by Kelly and his life partner, photographer Jack Shear, and displayed them alongside artworks made by Kelly. The exhibit, a beautiful and fun illustration of a shared artistic philosophy, is now on the road, at New Britain Museum of American Art for the rest of the year.
An austere 1850 case of drawers is placed underneath two hanging prints of strongly geometric compositions, both made by Kelly in the early 70s, one blue over black, the other orange over black. An 1845 stove sits close to the blue-over-black, each piece seeming to mimic each other’s construction.
In another corner of the small gallery, a horizontally symmetrical work counter made in 1845 sits beneath one of the prints from Kelly’s “Second Curve” series, an oval-shaped, black image floating in a white background, the shape’s unadorned edges echoing the sharp edges of the work counter.
An 1835 table bought by Kelly in 1970 is distinguished by its elongated shape. It is exhibited below a 1988 lithograph also of an elongated shape “Red Curve.”
A tall, narrow 1835 cupboard – which at some point was painted yellow, and then blue, before being returned to its unpainted state – is displayed alongside a Kelly composition made of vertically stacked blue, yellow and red rectangles.
It’s not part of the Kelly exhibit, but the massive 1858 Shaker case, built into the wall of the gallery, is a marvel to see on any occasion.
LINE AND CURVE: THE ELLSWORTH KELLY AND JACK SHEAR SHAKER COLLECTION FROM SHAKER MUSEUM | MOUNT LEBANON WITH PRINTS BY ELLSWORTH KELLY is at New Britain Museum of American Art, 56 Lexington St., until Dec. 31. nbmaa.org.
On Other Walls
Gallery on the Green in Canton will show work by Rowena Oke Brainard and Nancy L. Greco from Aug. 31 to Sept. 29, along with a group show, “Recycle!” The opening reception for all is Sept. 1 from 6 to 9 p.m. galleryonthegreen.org.
“Don’t Try to Boil the Ocean,” an exhibit of conceptual work by Caroline Woolard, Gene Gort, Hirokazu Fukawa, Luke Seward, Olu Oguibe, Raza Kazmi, Sarah Rohlfind and Shadia Heenan Nilforoush, will be at ArtSpace Hartford from Sept. 3, opening with a reception from 6 to 11 p.m., until Sept. 28. facebook.com.
Two exhibits run Aug. 30 to Oct. 14 at the William Benton Museum of Art at University of Connecticut in Storrs: “What’s the Alternative?: The Art and Outrage of the 1960s Underground Press” and “From Hogarth to Daumier: Satirical Prints in the Benton’s Collection, 1720-1848.” benton.uconn.edu.
Windsor Art Center presents “Local Color: Inspired by Science,” an exhibit of art quilts created by Connecticut members of Studio Art Quilt Associates, from Sept. 1, opening with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m., to Oct. 13. windsorartcenter.org.
“Same Nice Cinemas,” an exhibit of 24 prints of palindromes created by Jim Beloff of Clinton and Scott Baldwin of Killingworth, is at Madison Art Cinemas from Aug. 30, opening with a reception from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., to Oct. 19. firstname.lastname@example.org.