Ilya Bolotowsky “The Last Paintings”

Washburn Gallery

poster for Ilya Bolotowsky “The Last Paintings”
[Image: Ilya Bolotowsky "Blue Diamond" (1981) acrylic on canvas, 50 3/4 x 51 1/4 in.]

This event has ended.

“…Bolotowsky was born in Petrograd, Russia, in 1907. He came to the United States in 1923 and studied for six years at the sternly academic National Academy of Design in New York. By the mid-thirties he was an abstract painter strongly influenced by Miro and Malevitch. He was co-founder of American Abstract Artists, a highly influential group in the pre-war years, and painted several abstract murals for the W.P.A, Federal Arts Project. (A more recent mural, painted in 1963, adorns the lobby of the Cinema I movie theater on Third Avenue in Manhattan.)

Peter Schjeldahl,
Excerpt from The New York Times, October 6, 1974

After the war he took up teaching, and his long absences from New York—notably a nine-year stint at the University of Wyoming—may help account for his peripheral standing in the art world. His esthetic researches, which increasingly involved odd- shaped canvases, were undertaken more or less in isolation: his first triangular painting was stretched on a pool-ball rack, his first round painting, or tondo, on a wagon wheel that was a gift from a Wyoming rancher. Meanwhile, he developed parallel careers as a filmmaker and a writer of plays and stories…

…For all their meticulous precision, however, none of his pictures is imperious or intimidating. This is in contrast to much American abstract art of the past decade, art that—by achieving tough, articulated formal presence—really does seem calculated to bully the viewer. For there has always been a humanist bias to Neo-Plasticism, and Bolotowsky has preserved and enlarged on this aspect, too, though in a vein cooler than that of Mondrian’s naive notion that “pure art” might somehow help purify the world. On the one hand, Bolotowsky holds to a belief in the social and architectural functions of art. A splendid mural done last year for the North Central Bronx Hospital, a painting both cheering and dignified, is included in the show. (There are also some architectural paintings on wood columns that are less effective.) On the other hand, more profoundly, he maintains a feeling for the calling of art that must be termed spiritual in character. The visual harmonies of his beat work seem constantly to verge on some ideal of emotional and intellectual harmony, some music of the spheres: They do this without any symbolical rhetoric; they do it with a kind of passionate diffidence before the exigencies of painting.

That Bolotowsky should have realized his finest achievements at a relatively advanced age is no miracle. Such things have happened before. But it is a notable event, apposite to a culture in which a lot of people, artists and others; are burnt-out cases before they reach middle age. Bolotowsky, working patiently over the years in what might seem an obsolete style, has done something that is interesting and inspiring on many levels and in many ways.”



from September 15, 2022 to November 05, 2022


Ilya Bolotowsky

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