The United States Postal Service has just released a limited series of stamps featuring 10 works by the late abstractionist Ellsworth Kelly and, honestly, there’s rarely been such a perfect alignment of art and mass medium.
Kelly trafficked in a particularly bold, particularly handsome hard-edge take on minimalist color field painting. At full size, one can identify—and enjoy—many of his pieces from yards and yards away. Unlike Rothkos, which work best when looming over the viewer, highly graphical Kellys are almost—almost—as interesting clear across a gallery as they are at arm’s-length. It’s brilliant art that allows for satisfying reproduction and distribution through multiple sizes and situations. Really, that no one turned Orange-Red Relief (For Delphine Seyrig) into a 0.87″ by 0.979″ bit of postage until now is somewhat of a wonder.
More than that, the release is perfectly timed for a Pride Month that marks the 50th anniversary of Stonewall thanks to the inclusion of Spectrum I. Although its resemblance to the LGBTQ rainbow pride flag is fully coincidental—Kelly painted it 25 years before Gilbert Baker debuted the flag—it’s still a work by a queer artist that resonates with queer iconography.
Because it now knows what it has on its hands, the USPS is not only offering Kellys to the masses through its 55-cent Forever stamps, but selling other collectible versions of the run including postcard sets, framed versions of the collection, envelopes, and more. We would have been happier if it also made large-scale posters (or stick-em-up Fatheads) of the works with perforated stamp edges, but we’ll count ourselves as more than satisfied with this.
Ellsworth Kelly USPS stamps are available here.