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JAMES KELLY, Untitled, 1952, Oil on paper, signed lower right, 23” x 29” ( 30″ x 36.5″ framed) (More)

JAMES KELLY, Untitled, ca. 1952, Oil on canvas, 23 ½  x 31” (More)

James Kelly

James Kelly was born in Philadelphia in 1913 to a family of shoemakers. While working in the family business by day, Kelly studied industrial arts at the University of the Arts, Philadelphia. He later continued his studies in the arts at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art, the Barnes Foundation on scholarship, and later the California School of Fine Arts from 1951-1954.

Kelly’s enlistment in the Air Force during World War II granted him the GI Bill and a ticket to San Francisco. It was there that his lithographic pieces received much attention, including that of Charles Dean, whose extensive Abstract Expressionist collection was acquired by the Library of Congress.

Kelly married fellow artist Sonia Gechtoff and moved to a studio on Fillmore Street in San Francisco. Their next-door neighbors included renowned artists Jay DeFeo, Wally Hedrick, and Michael McClure. It was during this time that Kelly developed his gestural, swirling style of painting, characterized by a heavy impasto.

In 1958 Kelly and Gechtoff relocated to New York, where Kelly worked at Grove Press while also receiving numerous awards for his art. He was awarded a Ford Foundation Grant for his lithography, a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, and a Peter and Madeline Martin Foundation for the Creative Arts Grant. Later on, in 1995, he was elected into the National Academy of Design. Kelly passed in 2003, leaving behind a legacy of nearly seven decades of work.


Selected Solo Exhibitions
1951 The Place, San Francisco
1956 San Francisco Art Association Gallery
1963 Stryke Gallery
1965 East Hampton Gallery
1966 Albright College
1968 Long Island University, Brooklyn
1971 Westbeth Gallery
1990 Wiegand Gallery

Selected Group Exhibitions
1949 Contemporary Art Association
1951 Pyramid Club
1951 California School of Fine Arts
1954 King Ubu Gallery
1955 East and West Art Gallery
1956 The Oakland Museum of California
1956 San Francisco Museum of Art
1958 M.H. de Young Memorial Museum
1958 San Francisco Museum of Art
1959 Time Life Building
1962 The Riverside Museum
1965 San Francisco Museum of Art
1968 Los Angeles County Museum
1973 The Oakland Museum of California
1975 The Pheonix Art Museum
1976 San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
1980 The Oakland Museum of California
1996 San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Selected Collections
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Naples Museum of Art
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts