Indepth Arts News: |
"Donald Sultan: In the Still Life Tradition"
2000-01-23 until 2000-04-09
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art
USA United States of America
The work of Donald Sultan is voluminous and varied.
Since 1975, when he
arrived in New York, Sultan's creative energy has manifested itself in the
mediums of paint, printing,
and sculpting. His extensive body of work has placed him at the forefront
of contemporary art, where he
has become best known for his ability to successfully merge the best of
yesterday's artistic tradition with
a fresh, modern approach that is unique. Opening January 23, 2000, at the
Memphis Brooks Museum of
Art, is Donald Sultan: In the Still Life Tradition. Organized by the
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, this
exhibition focuses on Sultan's untraditional approach to a traditional
theme Still Lifes. Featured are
twenty of the artist's large-scale paintings (8' x 8'), including his
well-known vases and flowers, lemons,
dominos, and buttons as well as his latest works of red tomatoes.
The representation of an assemblage of objects from the everyday world
has captivated artists
and their audiences throughout history. Still lifes find their origin in
the ancient ritual of hospitality; the
ability to offer one's guests flowers or fruit, as a sign of prosperity and
generosity, eventually found its
way into artistic representation. Throughout art history, from the mosaics
of antiquity through Dutch
seventeenth-century still life paintings to cubist compositions,
fascination with still lifes has remained
constant. Donald Sultan's works fit perfectly in this tradition, while at
the same time offering a
springboard into the next century.
Although Sultan's subject matter varies, his still lifes share formal
similarities of volume, texture
and richness. He is best known for his lemons and fruit, and states that
his subjects develop from
previous work. The oval of his lemons has led to a series of oval-blossomed
tulips. Dots from dice have
become oranges. What does not change with Sultan's work is the powerful
statement his forms make.
Sultan's work incorporates basic geometric and organic forms with a formal
purity that is both subtle and
monumental. His images are weighty, with equal emphasis on both negative
and positive areas.
Sultan's still lifes have been described as studies in contrast. His
powerfully sensual, fleshy
object representations are rendered through a labor-intensive and unique
method. Instead of canvas,
Sultan works on masonite covered with 12 inch vinyl floor tiles. The format
is dictated by the tiles one-
foot squares, eight-foot squares, or most recently, four-foot squares.
Sultan cuts the shapes he desires
into the vinyl. He fills in the cutout space with plaster and/or tar, and
then paints over it. These multiple
layers create the texture and subsequent richness that are so appealing.
And the largeness of Sultan's
compositions, huge pieces of fruit, flowers, dominoes and other objects,
set against the stark, unsettling
tar black, eight foot square background, dominate the viewer. Sultan
describes his work as heavy
structure, holding fragile meaning with the ability to turn you off and
turn you on at the same time.
Donald Sultan was born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina. His
father, a person with his
own artistic tendencies, was a tire salesman. His father's business
probably had a strong effect on
Sultan's unusual choice of mediums. Sultan attended the University of North
Carolina, Chapel Hill, and
received his MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago. He and his wife, Susan,
who is also from Asheville,
moved to New York upon Sultan's graduation from the Art Institute in 1975.
They have two children, a
daughter Frances, age 18, and a son Penn, age 11. Sultan's work is
internationally recognized, and hangs
in museums throughout the world, including the Museum of Modern Art and the
Donald Sultan: In the Still Life Tradition is organized by the Memphis
Brooks Museum of Art
and curated by Dana Holland-Beickert. The exhibition is being circulated
by Pamela Auchincloss, Arts
Management. Funding for the national tour and catalogue is provided by FDX