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The Story Behind "Settings"

The Story Behind "Settings"

Todd Kelly

The Story Behind "Settings"

TK portrait

Portrait of Todd Kelly in his studio, 2020.

The paintings of Todd Kelly have consistently spiraled between painting's surface and its conceptual depth. Working frequently with layers, Kelly alternates stencilled shapes, dotted lines, tiny grids or magnified brushtrokes, and typically a sort of unified quilt flattens the layers into an overall sensation. Frequently jumping within a series, show, or even painting between abstraction and outlined or flattened figuration, Kelly enjoys the interplay between objects, still life arrangements, and patterns. His work has made successively intricate arguments for the continual pleasures to be found in the arena of still life painting for contemporary painters.

In his most recent series "Settings", both his intricately painted grids, with their pastel gradients, and the concept behind a still life have been given ever firmer prominence. The grids now take over all but the edge of the paintings, and the objects are often real, inserted under or on top of the painted surface. Sometimes, they hang off a chain, and so add a sort of charm necklace or mobile twinking in the breeze, another rebus of meanings that can be considered both for its aesthetic, Pop value, and inevitable references to the artist's lived experience - t-shirts, socks, a phone, unpaid bills, and objects of personal signifance and aesthetic whimsy.

Kelly splits his time between living in Brooklyn, NY and working in his barn studio in Upstate New York, where he is surrounded by chickens, flowers, and studio views of the changing seasons. 

"When looking for a place to be, for a spot to land...all of these 'Settings' are a place for something to happen. You're putting all these things together, and it turns into some kind of narrative or a story...a 'Setting' is sort of a place where things gather, where people gather."

-Todd Kelly

Working in the studio

Left: Todd Kelly, Detail: Setting 6, 2020, Oil paint, house paint, acrylic gel, collage, lenticular Muybridge postcard, plastic light shield, metal standoff hardware, plastic fox, ceramic figurine on canvas, 44" x 32"
Right: Todd Kelly painting in his studio upstate, NY

At the sudden onset of the pandemic, Kelly moved his painting practice to the dining room of his house upstate, as his barn was suitable only for seasonal use. The change in setting propelled a more constrained way of working where the paintings reflected each other and bodies of work that previously were separate started to be in dialogue with each other.

detail 3

"This blue-gray painting is the first piece I made in this series in which the painted grid actually covers all the objects glued to the canvas. After the paint dried I glued multicolored rocks to the surface creating a situation with objects under the blanket and objects on top of the blanket as if in parallel universes."

-Todd Kelly

Studio pic 1
Image of work

Todd Kelly
Setting 6, 2020
Oil paint, house paint, acrylic gel, collage,
lenticular Muybridge postcard, plastic light shield,
metal standoff hardware, plastic fox, ceramic
figurine on canvas
44" x 32"

Image of work

Left: detail of Setting 6, 2020, the male fox is known as a Tod; Right: detail of Setting 12, 2020.
 

 

 

"My studio floor is always covered with groups of these little paintings awaiting their next move. It’s a long decision making process ... after creating a simple arrangement I paint around the collaged images, then photograph the result. That process image is then collaged back into the painting and then I paint over or around them again. That process gets repeated until the thing feels finished. "

-Todd Kelly

Studio pic 3
Image of work

Todd Kelly
Setting 12, 2020
Oil paint, house paint, acrylic gel, collage, tshirts, steel plate, vinyl scrap, plastic storage boxes, toy rooster on canvas
49.50" x 34.50" x 8"

Interview with Danielle Mysliwiec, Artist and Program Director of the Studio Art Department at American University, Washington, D.C.

Excerpts from a conversation in December 2020 where Todd Kelly discusses the process and inspiration behind "Settings", Kelly's most recent body of work.

Full length: 17:30 minutes.

Image of work

Todd Kelly
Setting 8, 2020
Oil, two old competitive running shirts, photos of the artist wearing his 'sliced lemon face' Tshirt, pride rainbow beads, screws, string, shaped wood and images of itself, on canvas
44" x 32"
 

"I think of the grid area like a blanket laid out for a picnic or some other event to happen. It includes and sometimes covers the objects, gives them a space to interact and become metaphors, and possibly even creates narrative."

- Todd Kelly

Image of work

Todd Kelly
Detail: Setting 11, 2020
Oil paint, house paint, acrylic gel, collage, twine, yarn, Styrofoam, plastic packaging, blue plastic grid, pink bubble mailer, toy rooster, Thomas the Tank Engine beach towel on canvas
44" x 32"
 

Studio pic 5
Image of work

Installation view of Todd Kelly: Settings, Asya Geisberg Gallery. Photo by Artland.
 

Todd Kelly: "Settings", January 9 - February 13, 2021

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Painting by Todd Kelly

Setting 9, 2020
Oil paint, house paint, acrylic paint, acrylic gel, envelopes, digital camera, plastic spoon, compact disc, tape measure, rocks on canvas
42" x 32"
 

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Painting by Todd Kelly

Setting 11, 2020
Oil paint, house paint, acrylic gel, collage, twine, yarn, Styrofoam, plastic packaging, blue plastic grid, pink bubble mailer, toy rooster, Thomas the Tank Engine beach towel on canvas
44" x 32"
 

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Painting by Todd Kelly

Setting 12, 2020
Oil paint, house paint, acrylic gel, collage, tshirts, steel plate, vinyl scrap, plastic storage boxes, toy rooster on canvas
49.5" x 34.5" x 8"
 

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Painting by Todd Kelly

Personal Setting, 2020
Oil paint, house paint, photos of xmas trees, chrome plated steel, chain, CDs with images of my past work, plastic rooster, lapel pins, plexiglass, cookie cutter, plastic box, Goofy figurine, ceramic nativity figurine, bottle of Hendricks gin, yellow butt plug, multi-tool key chain, door hardware
73" x 51" x 12"
 

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Painting by Todd Kelly

Setting 8, 2020
Oil, two old competitive running shirts, photos of the artist wearing his 'sliced lemon face' Tshirt, pride rainbow beads, screws, string, shaped wood and images of itself, on canvas
44" x 32"
 

询问
Painting by Todd Kelly

Setting 7, 2020
Oil paint, house paint, acrylic paint, collage, rocks on canvas
44" x 32"
 

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Painting by Todd Kelly

Setting 6, 2020
Oil paint, house paint, acrylic gel, collage,
lenticular Muybridge postcard, plastic light shield,
metal standoff hardware, plastic fox, ceramic
figurine on canvas
44" x 32"

询问
Painting by Todd Kelly

Green Rainbow 3, 2020
Oil, acrylic, and collage on linen
14" x 11"

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Painting by Todd Kelly

Green Rainbow 4, 2020
Oil, acrylic, and collage on linen
14" x 11"

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Painting by Toddy Kelly

Todd Kelly
Pink Orange Composition 1, 2020
Oil, acrylic, and collage on linen
14" x 11"
 

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Painting by Toddy Kelly

Todd Kelly
Pink Orange Composition 2, 2020
Oil, acrylic, and collage on linen
14" x 11"
 

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Painting by Toddy Kelly

Todd Kelly
Pink Orange Composition 3, 2020
Oil, acrylic, and collage on linen
14" x 11"
 

询问
Painting by Toddy Kelly

Todd Kelly
Pink Orange Composition 4, 2020
Oil, acrylic, and collage on linen
14" x 11"
 

询问
Painting by Todd Kelly

Tan Rainbow Composition 1, 2020
Oil, acrylic, and collage on linen
14" x 11"
 

询问
Painting by Todd Kelly

Tan Rainbow Composition 2, 2020
Oil, acrylic, and collage on linen
14" x 11"
 

询问
Painting by Todd Kelly

Tan Rainbow Composition 3, 2020
Oil, acrylic, and collage on linen
14" x 11"
 

询问
Painting by Todd Kelly

Tan Rainbow Composition 4, 2020
Oil, acrylic, and collage on linen
14" x 11"
 

询问

Setting 4, 2020
Oil paint, house paint, acrylic paint, acrylic gel, collage, plastic picture frame on canvas
44" x 32"
 

询问
Painting by Todd Kelly

Setting 9, 2020
Oil paint, house paint, acrylic paint, acrylic gel, envelopes, digital camera, plastic spoon, compact disc, tape measure, rocks on canvas
42" x 32"
 

Painting by Todd Kelly

Setting 11, 2020
Oil paint, house paint, acrylic gel, collage, twine, yarn, Styrofoam, plastic packaging, blue plastic grid, pink bubble mailer, toy rooster, Thomas the Tank Engine beach towel on canvas
44" x 32"
 

Painting by Todd Kelly

Setting 12, 2020
Oil paint, house paint, acrylic gel, collage, tshirts, steel plate, vinyl scrap, plastic storage boxes, toy rooster on canvas
49.5" x 34.5" x 8"
 

Painting by Todd Kelly

Personal Setting, 2020
Oil paint, house paint, photos of xmas trees, chrome plated steel, chain, CDs with images of my past work, plastic rooster, lapel pins, plexiglass, cookie cutter, plastic box, Goofy figurine, ceramic nativity figurine, bottle of Hendricks gin, yellow butt plug, multi-tool key chain, door hardware
73" x 51" x 12"
 

Painting by Todd Kelly

Setting 8, 2020
Oil, two old competitive running shirts, photos of the artist wearing his 'sliced lemon face' Tshirt, pride rainbow beads, screws, string, shaped wood and images of itself, on canvas
44" x 32"
 

Painting by Todd Kelly

Setting 7, 2020
Oil paint, house paint, acrylic paint, collage, rocks on canvas
44" x 32"
 

Painting by Todd Kelly

Setting 6, 2020
Oil paint, house paint, acrylic gel, collage,
lenticular Muybridge postcard, plastic light shield,
metal standoff hardware, plastic fox, ceramic
figurine on canvas
44" x 32"

Painting by Todd Kelly

Green Rainbow 3, 2020
Oil, acrylic, and collage on linen
14" x 11"

Painting by Todd Kelly

Green Rainbow 4, 2020
Oil, acrylic, and collage on linen
14" x 11"

Painting by Toddy Kelly

Todd Kelly
Pink Orange Composition 1, 2020
Oil, acrylic, and collage on linen
14" x 11"
 

Painting by Toddy Kelly

Todd Kelly
Pink Orange Composition 2, 2020
Oil, acrylic, and collage on linen
14" x 11"
 

Painting by Toddy Kelly

Todd Kelly
Pink Orange Composition 3, 2020
Oil, acrylic, and collage on linen
14" x 11"
 

Painting by Toddy Kelly

Todd Kelly
Pink Orange Composition 4, 2020
Oil, acrylic, and collage on linen
14" x 11"
 

Painting by Todd Kelly

Tan Rainbow Composition 1, 2020
Oil, acrylic, and collage on linen
14" x 11"
 

Painting by Todd Kelly

Tan Rainbow Composition 2, 2020
Oil, acrylic, and collage on linen
14" x 11"
 

Painting by Todd Kelly

Tan Rainbow Composition 3, 2020
Oil, acrylic, and collage on linen
14" x 11"
 

Painting by Todd Kelly

Tan Rainbow Composition 4, 2020
Oil, acrylic, and collage on linen
14" x 11"
 

Setting 4, 2020
Oil paint, house paint, acrylic paint, acrylic gel, collage, plastic picture frame on canvas
44" x 32"