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Saying farewell to two arts greats: Ellsworth Kelly and Haskell Wexler

Haskell Wexler, 93, was a giant in the world of cinematography in the 1960s and '70s. The Oscar-winner helped create new looks for films like "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Ellsworth Kelly, 92, was one of America's leading abstract artists. Jeffrey Brown looks back at their distinguished careers.

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  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And finally tonight, we remember two major figures from the world of the arts who died this weekend, an Oscar-winning cinematographer, and a master of the abstract modern art scene.

    Haskell Wexler was a pioneer in the world of cinematography in the 1960s and '70s, directing the photography and creating new looks for films like "Coming Home."

  • ACTOR:

    I wanted to be a war hero, man. I wanted to go out and kill for my country.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    "In the Heat of the Night."

  • ACTOR:

    Why don't you tell me how you killed Mr. Colbert, and I promise you, you're going to feel a whole lot better.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," for which he received an Oscar nomination.

  • ACTOR:

    They're all crowding in on you, Mr. Harding. They're all ganging on up on you.

  • ACTOR:

    Is that news?

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    He won his first Academy Award in 1966 for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

  • HASKELL WEXLER:

    I hope we can use our art for peace and for love. Thanks.

  • RICHARD BURTON:

    Martha, I warn you.

  • ELIZABETH TAYLOR:

    I stand warned.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    That film used handheld cameras to elevate the tension between the characters by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

    Wexler earned another Oscar in 1976 for "Bound for Glory," which told the story of Woody Guthrie. It was the first film to use a steady cam shot.

    For "Medium Cool" in 1969, a film he wrote and directed, Wexler blended real and fictional footage to tell the story of a TV reporter covering the turmoil of the 1968 Democratic National Convention. That cinema verite style would influence many other aspiring filmmakers.

    Wexler was also an outspoken liberal activist and documentarian who used the tools of film to champion his causes.

  • MAN:

    It's war. And that's the only thing that you could do, and it's either you or them.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    He won an Oscar for a short documentary in 1970 called "Interviews with My Lai Veterans" about the U.S. massacre in Vietnam.

    He continued working until recently. Haskell Wexler died yesterday. He was 93 years old.

    Ellsworth Kelly was one of America's leading 20th century abstract artists, becoming known for his geometric shapes and simple color schemes inspired by the world around him.

    Stephanie Barron is senior curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

    STEPHANIE BARRON, Senior Curator, Los Angeles County Museum of Art: The humanity comes from his uncanny ability to distill the visual and the physical that he sees. And whether it's a leaf or an awning or a rock, things that we might just walk right by, he would pick up, and he would ponder, and he would find the essence in them and distill it into a very simple form.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    During World War II, Kelly painted camouflage patterns on military tank cutouts to fool German forces. And, after the war, he moved to Paris to study art on the G.I. Bill. He returned to the U.S. in the 1950s. His bold geometric paintings left some viewers wondering just where the art was, while others found themselves drawn in.

  • STEPHANIE BARRON:

    I'm always stunned at how much it seems to affect people. And there is a strange ability that these works have to communicate to people who don't just walk by them. They're really drawn into it, and they're very contemplative.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    The work would eventually make its way into leading museum in this country and abroad. And in 2012, Kelly received the National Medal of the Arts from President Obama.

    Ellsworth Kelly died Sunday at his home in Upstate New York. He was 92 years old.

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