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Absalom Passage—18

Jules Olitski

Artwork Details

Absalom Passage—18
Jules Olitski
acrylic on canvas
72 in x 99 3/4 in (182.88 cm x 253.37 cm);99 3/4 in x 72 in (253.37 cm x 182.88 cm)
Purchase made possible by the generosity of Dr. and Mrs. Joseph A. Gosman


March 28, 2009
From 1968, Olitski used rollers, squeegees, and a spray gun in order to deposit pigment onto the canvas without using his own hands. These methods were widely influential among the group of “color-field” abstract painters who dominated the American art scene in the late sixties and early seventies. The thin lines of pastel paint that trace the extreme left and right edges of the canvas are used by Olitski to bring the viewer’s attention to the shape and structure of the painting.
Jules Olitski was close to giving up his career as an artist in 1958 when his paintings, which had up until then been completely ignored by the public, caught the eye of art critic Clement Greenberg, at the time one of the most influential authorities on modern art. Under the guidance of Greenberg (who would come to his studio, look at a painting he liked and say, “Do that more”) and with his promotion, Olitski (and others doing work like him) came to represent the pinnacle of the modern American tradition in abstract painting.

Subject Matter:

Here, Olitski creates a canvas that is almost entirely one-solid color which has been applied with a spray gun. Olitski, one of the most prominent color field painters of the time, drew his inspiration for color and painting from Renaissance use of light and color, especially in terms of their development of dramatic effects of light and chiarascurro. With paintings such as this one, Olitski applies this inspiration to the modernity of the time in which he was working. Though the color of this painting is simple, it's allover application has a captivating effect and the enormity of the canvas draws the viewer in to its presence. The name of this painting, Absalom, comes from the biblical figure, the third son of David who plotted to seize the throne from his father, but that narrative is not referenced in this abstract painting.

Physical Description:

Olitski has covered nearly the entire canvas in the same grey acrylic using a spray gun.  On the right side of the canvas, there is a group of vertical lines in red, blue, and white. 

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