“The negative space is like one of my shapes, and when you look at a drawing of mine you can call off the number [of shapes]. Matisse draws what I call the essence of the plants. He leaves a shape open. He’ll do a leaf and not close it. Everybody used to say, oh, I got it all from Matisse, and I said, ‘Not really.’ [Mine] is a different kind of spirituality. It’s more a portrait of a plant. I do the contours, and I make space by overlapping. I don’t want to put shading in because they’re about drawing, not about shading. Shape and color are my two strong things. And by doing this, drawing plants has always led me into my paintings and my sculptures.”
–Ellsworth Kelly, in a recent interview with Kimberly Chou for the Wall Street Journal. The first major museum exhibition of Kelly’s plant drawings opens today at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.