James Kelly




James Kelly (December 19, 1913 – June 29, 2003) was known as a second-generation Abstract Expressionist painter. He was born and raised in Philadelphia. Kelly studied at the School of Industrial Arts (which is now the University of the Arts in Philadelphia) in 1937 and then in 1938 at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Arts. In 1941 he was awarded a scholarship to the Barnes Foundation where he studied before enlisting in World War II. After the war, he moved to San Francisco and studied at the California School of the Arts under the GI Bill from 1951 to 54. There he met and married artist Sonia Gechtoff. They lived on Fillmore Street and became part of the Beat Scene and friends with Deborah Remington, Jay DeFeo, Madeleine Diamond, Ernest Briggs and Wally Hedrick, among others.


Early in Kelly’s career, in the 1940s, influenced by paintings by Piet Mondrian and later Pablo Picasso, his work was geometric with references to Modernism and Cubism. Following the move to California, Kelly’s work changed and was more gestural, with long smooth strokes and thick layers of impasto paint from generous use of the palette knife. He layered the pigment and worked the surfaces to reveal layers of colors under a heavily textured surface of black paint. Kelly also took up lithography and enjoyed making prints, working at the Tamarind Lithography Workshop numerous times through the 1960s and 70s.  


The 1970s saw a bit of shift back to geometric work for Kelly, using grids and systemic approaches, a lot of ink with black and white reductive compositions. However, short lived and in the 1980s Kelly returned to sweeping broad gestures of bright color across the canvas with iconic spins, swirls and a dose of representational elements and hidden / camouflaged figures. His work was lyrical and playful, spontaneous with periods of humor.  This maturity in his work from the 1980s and through the rest of his career became a reflection of him as a person, how he really thought and what made him happy.



Solo Exhibitions

2012         Abstract Anatomy, David Findlay Jr Gallery, New York, NY (solo, catalog)

2006         Perlow Gallery, New York, NY (solo)

1990         Wiegand Gallery, College of Notre Dame, Belmont, CA (solo)

1972         Westbeth Gallery, New York, NY

1971         Westbeth Gallery, New York, NY

1969         East. Hampton Gallery, New York, NY

1968         Long Island University, Brooklyn, NY

1966         Albright College, Redding, Pennsylvania, PA

1965         East Hampton Gallery, New York, NY

1963         Stryke Gallery, New York, NY

1956         San Francisco Art Association Gallery, San Francisco, CA

1954         The Place, San Francisco, CA


Group Exhibitions

2017         A Non-Objective Couple, Sonia Gechtoff and James Kelly,

                     Anita Shapolsky Gallery, New York, NY

2011         Summer Set, David Findlay Jr. Fine Art, New York, NY

2004         Recent Print Acquisitions, Whitney Museum of American Art,

                     New York, NY

2004        Celebrating 35 Years of Collecting Art, San Jose Museum of Art,

                     San Jose, CA

2003        California Abstract Expressionist Prints from the Charles R. Dean

                    Collection, International Print Center, New York, NY

2003        Inside Out: Selections from the Permanent Collection, San Jose Museum

                    of Art, San Jose,CA

2003        Prints and Drawings: About the Drawing, Ames Family Gallery, Whitney

      Museum of American Art, New York, NY

2001        The Stamp of Impulse, Abstract Expressionist Prints, Worcester Art

                    Museum, Worcester,MA

2001        Touchstone: 200 Years of Artists Lithographs, Harvard University

1996        San Francisco School of Abstract Expressionism, San Francisco Museum

                    of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA (Also travelled to Laguna

       Beach Art Museum)

1990        Lyrical Vision: The 6 Gallery 1954-1957, Natsoulas/Novelozo Gallery,

                    Davis, CA

1988         “Invitational Show“, Gruenebaum Gallery, New York, NY

1985         “Art in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945-1980“, Oakland Art Museum,

                      Oakland, CA

1977         “The Geometry of Color“, Andre Zarre Gallery, New York, NY

                 Invitational Show, Huntsville Museum of Art, Huntsville, AL

                 California Painting and Sculpture: The Modern Era, National Collection of Fine

                     Arts, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

1976         California Painting and Sculpture: The Modern Era, San Francisco Museum of

                     Modern Art, San Francisco, CA

                 “The Last Time I Saw Ferus“ Newport Harbor Art Museum California

1975         Phoenix Art Museum Traveling Exhibition

                 Four Corners’ States Biennial, Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ

1973         “A Period of Exploration“ Oakland Museum of Art, Oakland, CA

1970         Invitational Group, Albright College, Reading, PA

1968         “Late Fifties at the Ferus“Los Angeles County Museum, Los Angeles, CA

1967         National Lithography Exhibition, Florida State University

1966         “August Op Art Festival“ East Hampton Gallery New York, NY

                 Invitational graphic show, Phoenix Gallery New York, NY

1965         Gallery Artists, East Hampton Gallery, New York, NY

                 “Multiple Editions“ San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, CA

1964         “New Dimensions of Lithography“ University of Southern California

                 “Color Dynamism, Then and Now“ East Hampton Gallery, New York, NY

1963         “Art-Present and Future“ Inglewood Armory, Inglewood, NJ

                 Five Man Show with Lester Johnson, Robert Loberg, Richards Ruben,

                     Felix Ruvelo, Berkley Gallery, California,

                  East Hampton Gallery, New York, NY

1962         “Contemporary Paintings and Sculptures“ Riverside Museum, New York, NY

1961         Invitational Show, Camino Gallery, New York, NY

1959         “West Coast Aartists“ Time-Life Building, New York, NY

                 Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

1958         22nd Annual Drawing and Print Exhibition, San Francisco Museum of Art,

                 San Francisco, CA Honorable Mention

                 Painting Annual, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC

                 “West Coast Artists“ The American Federation of Arts, New York traveling

                     show through US and Canada 1958 through 1959

                 “Fresh Paint-1958“ De Young Museum, San Francisco, CA

                  Dilexi Gallery, San Francisco, CA

                  Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

                  “Bay Area Invitational Exhibition” Gump’s Gallery, San Francisco painting

                      purchased by Gump’s and presented to San Francisco Museum of Art

                  77th Annual Painting and Sculpture Exhibition, San Francisco Museum of Art,

                       San Francisco, CA  First Prize for Painting

1957         Second Pacific Coast Biennial Exhibition, traveling show, Santa Barbara,

                     San Francisco, Seattle, Portland

                 “Directions-Bay Area Paintings-1957“ Richmond Art Center,

                     California traveling show through 1958

                  “American Paintings 1945-1957“ Minneapolis Institute of Art,

                       Minneapolis, MN

                  “Paintings and Sculptures Now“ San Francisco Museum of Art,

                      San Francisco, CA

                  “California Painters Exhibition“ Oakland Art Museum, Oakland, CA

                  Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

                  76th Painting and Sculpture Annual, San Francisco Museum of Art,

                      San Francisco, San Francisco Art Association Purchase Prize

                  6th Annual Oil and Sculpture Exhibition, Richmond Art Center, Richmond, CA

                      Second Prize for Painting

1956         20th Annual Watercolor Exhibition, San Francisco Museum of Art,

                     San Francisco, CA

                 75th Painting and Sculpture Annual, San Francisco Museum of Art,

                     San Francisco California First Western Bank and Trust Prize for Painting

                 “California School, Yes or No?“, Oakland Art Museum Oakland, CA

                 “California Painters Exhibition“, University of Minnesota

1955         19th Annual Drawing and Print Show, San Francisco Museum of Art,

                      San Francisco, CA  Honorable mention

                 “6“ Gallery, San Francisco, CA

                  East and West Gallery Art Gallery, San Francisco, CA

                 “Action Painting of the West Coast“ Concert Hall Workshop, Santa Monica, CA

1954         “From San Francisco”, Kaufman Art Gallery, New York, NY

1953         King Ubu Gallery, San Francisco, CA

1952         “Mirror Five Group“ five man show, San Francisco School of Fine Art,

                     San Francisco, CA

1951         San Francisco Art Festival, San Francisco, CA

                 Pennsylvania Academy Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA

                 Pyramid Club, Philadelphia, PA

1949         Contemporary Art Association, Philadelphia, PA


Selected Public Collections


Richmond Art Center, Richmond, CA

San Francisco Art Association, San Francisco, CA

San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, CA

University of California, Los Angels, Los Angeles, CA

University of Massachusetts

WestingHouse Corporation, Pittsburg, PA, Winston-Salem, NC and New Jersey.

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY

Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA

Amon Carter Museum of Art, Fort Worth, TX

Chase Manhattan Bank, New York, NY

Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA

Harvard University Art Museum, Cambridge, MA

La Jolla Museum of Art, La Jolla, CA

Los Angeles Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA

Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

New York University, New York, NY

The Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA

Pasadena Museum of Art, Pasadena, CA

National Gallery of Art, Wahington, D.C.

Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.