Kellylike is one of three abstract paintings by Felrath Hines given in 2009 to the Nasher Museum by the artist's widow, Dorothy Fisher. Hines was a founding member of the important Spiral Group, the artist's collective organized by Romare Bearden in New York in 1963 to explore the role of the African-American artist in the civil rights struggle. The group also included Charles Allston, Norman Lewis, and Hale Woodruff, among others.
Hines met Martin Luther King Jr., participated in the March on Washington, and traveled to Fayette, Mississippi, with Bearden, Lewis, and Marian Logan to rally support for Charles Evers' mayoral campaign in 1970. But Hines chose to separate his political life from the subject matter of his art, painting only apolitical, abstract paintings in which subtle color shifts were often juxtaposed with strong primary colors, as in this example.
He painted Kellylike after seeing an exhibition of Ellsworth Kelly's work. Kelly often painted solid blocks of color onto canvases cut into varying shapes—curves, triangles, tall, skinny rectangles—so that they took on a three-dimensional, sculptural quality. In Kellylike, Hines did a kind of riff on that style by using the same sorts of shapes but placing them on a white background, in effect flattening them back into two dimensions.
Kellylike will be on view at the Nasher from June 6 to September 5, 2010, as part of the exhibition "Color Balance: Paintings by Felrath Hines and Alma Thomas." (Thomas is a fellow abstractionist.) The exhibition is a collaborative project that will include fourteen paintings and four drawings by Hines that were donated to three area museums: the Nasher, the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the North Carolina Central University Art Museum. Each institution will show the works in a fresh context; for its part, the Nasher is displaying an additional seven works by Thomas. The Hines works will be on display at the Ackland January 16 to May 9, 2010, and at NCCU September 26 to December 10, 2010.