Lee Kelly, one of the Northwest’s most celebrated and respected artists, creates powerful sculpture in Cor-Ten and stainless steel. Atacama finds Kelly returning to the studio after having completed a number of public commissions. A strong body of wall hung and freestanding sculptures were created in collaboration with his studio assistants D’Nita Carbone and Christina Conant. Kelly is an inveterate traveller, having explored such far ranging locales as Nepal, Turkey, Mexico, Japan, Thailand, India, and Vietnam. Echoes and memories of the ancient architecture and culture of these places find their way into his work. The title of the exhibition is a reference to an endangered region of South America, known to be the most arid landscape on earth. In steel layered with gold and silver leaf, the works in Atacama glow and move in a dance reminiscent of the shifting sands of the desert.
Born in 1932 in McCall, Idaho, Lee Kelly began his artistic life as a painter, and in 1959 graduated from the Museum Art School at the Portland Art Museum, now known as the Pacific Northwest College of Art (Portland, OR). Kelly’s long and prestigious career, and prolific nature have resulted in a significant body of work which can be seen in public and private collections throughout the country, including at the Portland Art Museum (Portland, OR), Stanford University (Stanford, CA), New Orleans Art Museum (New Orleans, LA), Seattle Art Museum (Seattle, WA), and the City of Sapporo in Japan. His modernist sculptures are a central focus at regional institutions such as Reed College, Marylhurst University, Oregon State University, Catlin Gabel School, the Oregon Health and Sciences University, and the Washington Park Rose Garden. His large scale sculpture Memory 99 was installed earlier this fall in Portland’s North Park Blocks in front of the future home of Pacific Northwest College of Art. Kelly has been exhibiting at the Elizabeth Leach Gallery since the early 1980s. In 2010 he was the subject of a major career retrospective at the Portland Art Museum.