If I were giving a prize for the most overrated artist in history, it would be Ellsworth Kelly, who in truth deserves not to be rated at all for his oeuvre is painted in the purest snake oil. (For an interesting opposing view click here.) Chief among his vices is pretentiousness, for if Mr. Kelly is an artist then so is the person who lays out the paint cards at Home Depot’s paint section. Indeed, I would argue that the latter work is more fulfilling since one) it’s interactive and two) you can take the little cards home and arrange them to your heart’s delight for free.
However, more than one friend has said to me, “I hate it when somebody sees a work of art and says, ‘I could do that.'” My feeling in sharp contrast is a great sigh of pleasure in the candour of the remark. Yes, anyone could do that. So true. Moreover, I feel that when anyone can do a thing — supposing the thing has value — one should probably just do it oneself. If Mr. Kelly does this on our behalf, mind you, I’m perfectly content to pay him a decent wage not to exceed whatever they’re paying the guy at Home Depot. But if I am supposed to pretend that his achievement is equal to, say, Rembrandt’s or the Rohan Master’s or Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s then, no. I will not play that game. My own painting is far superior to Mr. Kelly’s and I make no bones about it.
I can do what he does — easily. He cannot do what I do. Not at all. (Let him try!)
Kelly is a cheap Matisse knock off. (Whew, it feels good to get that off my chest.)