In the late '40s, at a time when the New York art world had become the undisputed center on the crest of the NY School wave, Ellsworth Kelly, a "2nd generation" contemporary of Rauschenberg, Johns, & Twombly, decided to go to Paris (1948–1953). Not unlike Rauschenberg’s & Twombly’s pilgrimage to Italy and North Africa, Kelly’s relocation to Paris seems to have been a search for a certain kind of historical energy and a connection to a thread that could help him find his way beyond the prevailing modes.
Working completely outside the NY incubator, Kelly developed a highly personal approach to color and form through intensive observation and deep intuition. While the later work for which he became famous evolved into very slick, coolly manufactured objects, their beginnings in Paris were beautifully modest, hand-built experiments that reflected a distinct materiality and an emotional connection to color, as well as a radically reductive distillation of observed relations. A generation later, these impulses surfaced again (whether by influence or osmosis) in the work of Brice Marden and Blinky Palermo among others.