Chance Composition

Inspired by Ellsworth Kelly’s Spectrum Colors Arranged by Chance, 1951–53

Ellsworth Kelly, Spectrum Colors Arranged by Chance, 1951-1953; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and promised gift of Helen and Charles Schwab; ©️ Ellsworth Kelly; photo: Hulya Kolabas

Key Concepts

  • Shape and color
  • The role that chance plays in art making
  • Choices artists make

Materials

  • 9” x 9” piece of paper
  • 3” x 3” squares of different colors of paper (at least 9 squares)
  • Ruler or straight edge
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • A box or a bag that you can’t see through

Introduction

  • What was the first thing you noticed about this work? Why do you think you noticed that first?
  • What more do you notice about the work after looking at it for a while?
  • What words would you use to describe the mood of this work? What do you see that makes you say that?

Instructions

  1. Cut at least nine 3” squares out of different colors of paper.
  2. Place all of your colored squares in a bag or box you can’t see into.
  3. Get a piece of 9” x 9” paper and some glue.
  4. Reach into your box or bag and pull out one square (no peeking!).
  5. Place that square in the upper left corner of your 9” x 9” piece of paper and glue it in place.
  6. Fill the rest of the page with this process, working from top to bottom, left to right.

Relevant Information

Around the time this painting was made, Kelly began to experiment with the idea of chance as a process for making artworks. Unlike some of the artist’s earlier works that were inspired by or refer to imagery from the world, this painting explores the process Kelly used to make it. Kelly said works like this one “were really an experiment.”

Discussion

  • Think about what you learned from looking at Kelly’s work and using a chance process to create your own work.
  • What did you discover about Kelly’s work?
  • What mood or emotion does your work convey? How do the colors contribute to this feeling?
  • What title would you give our work based on the arrangement and the colors?

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