About Patrick Kelly

Patrick Kelly

Read between the lines. Patrick Kelly's work, though rigorously abstract, is so multi-linear, so rich in allusion, so downright expository that he manages to lead his viewers into themselves even as he draws them into his art. He does this by deceptively simple means. Using familiar imagery such as wood grain and brick patterns, he delineates the natural world and the built environment and shows how each encroaches on the other. Nature intrudes on the bricks by altering their sameness through color or erosion; tree rings, already pierced by organic cracks against the grain, are further invaded by gaps that might represent saw marks or laser beams. Perceptions shift as familiar textures take on subatomic characteristics, their familiar lines becoming a transparent fretwork between the everyday world and infinity as the composition metamorphoses from two dimensions to three.

Clearly, there is more going on here than meets the eye. A literary richness, leavened with dry humor, pervades the work. His solo exhibitions have always had extraordinary titles. In one, "Eye Want I Candy," he injects a conceptual note that raises questions about the line that separates form and content.

Kelly has established a continuum of thought that can be read like a map by those who have followed his work for years. In each of his shows at leading galleries and public art spaces, there has been a subtle thread that connects each phase of exploration and experimentation to all the others. Clues can be found in his subjects as well as in the evolution of his style, which has a pared-down Pop Art sensibility that marches steadily toward Minimalism.

Kelly's work has been influenced in part by his role as preparator for a major regional museum located in a tiny West Texas town. Working with an important collection gives him a window onto world art, enhanced by the town's easy access to larger cities, yet the measured pace of local life allows him time for contemplation. The wood and brick and stone of old buildings, pared down to their bare essence by the unforgiving elements, furnish all the visual material he needs for his investigations into rigorous textural and formal relationships.

Kelly constantly juggles and reshapes whatever imagery he is concentrating on at the time. His painting process is similar to masonry work in its patient construction of the image's framework and composition, but it does not end there. He turns his theme this way and that in the light, layering and juxtaposing wood grains or adding and subtracting bricks. Ordinary patterns that have become invisible by virtue of their ubiquitous presence suddenly become new and unfamiliar and interesting again.

The progression of Kelly's thought is never a straight line, but more of a web or network of simultaneous ideas. He continues the progression right onto the gallery wall by installing his paintings so that they activate the space. There, the work comes alive, leading the eye in fresh directions and pulsating with change, growth, and discovery.