Kelly's extraordinary sense of appropriateness is designed into the choice of site and placement of each pieces every bit as much as into the physical form of the sculpture itself. This sense of rightness, of surroundings appropriate to the mood of the sculpture, of spaces suited to the activity of people, holds true throughout the entire range of the sculptor's work, from small memorials tucked into leafy alcoves to massive gates and blocks of stainless steel on open concrete plazas adjacent to government offices. In those few cases where an artificial podium separates a Kelly sculpture from the natural space of the spectator or where the bold forms of Cor-ten steel are surrounded by a decorative Japanese garden, one senses immediately that the natural ease of the artist's usual working relationship has been subverted or a piece insensitively resited.

Kelly prefers spaces which are used by people and takes delight in the obvious enjoyment of children who climb over his works or ride bicycles through them. His pieces need to be experienced physically, not simply viewed pictorially. Partly for this reason, they seem to require flat areas where they can share the space of the people around them.

Like many sculptors of this century, Kelly has followed the lead of Gonzalez and Picasso in welding separate sheets of metal into freestanding sculptures, a technique closer to the process of industrial welding than to the traditional techniques of carving or casting. In some of the stainless steel pieces, Kelly finishes edges and grinds surfaces with the perfection of David Smith. In other less formal works, he makes use of scrap steel, improvising with a twisted slab or retaining a nicely placed dent.

Surprisingly, the diversity of Kelly's sculpture and the appropriateness of each piece to its particular situation reaffirms, rather than dilutes, the sense of common origin which his works share. However public the final pieces, their conception is deeply private and the resulting pieces therefore imbued with the artistic personality of their creator.


2/2 Charles Rhyne, "Lee Kelly: Outdoor Sculpture for the Public"

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