Jules Olitski


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Painter, sculptor, and printmaker. Known primarily as a color field painter, about 1960 he renounced his drab, heavily textured style of the 1950s, turning instead to large stained canvases featuring intense color planes, often contrasting with black, generally in roughly circular arrangements. In the mid-1960s he switched to spray-painting soaked canvases to create an opulent personal style of vast, amorphous mists, often accented with brushwork, particularly along the edges. During the 1970s he moved away from sprayed paint toward nearly monochromatic impastos. Expressionistic works begun in the 1990s display heavily textured, intensely colored, writhing paint surfaces. Some seem to reverberate with the power of natural phenomena, as observed from his summer home on New Hampshire's Lake Winnipesaukee, his winter retreat in the Florida Keys, and elsewhere. Late in 1968, during a visit to Anthony Caro in England, Olitski took up a serious interest in sculpture. His subsequent, typically large-scale abstract works, usually constructed from sheet steel, featured colored surfaces at first, but later he preferred the unadorned sheen or weathered surface of metal. Born in Snovsk, Russia (now Shchors, Ukraine), Jevel (or Yevel) Demikovsky officially took his stepfather's surname, Olitsky, when he became an American citizen in 1943. (He later altered the spelling.) Olitski was brought to New York the year after his birth. He trained mainly at the National Academy of Design before entering the U.S. Army in 1942. In 1949 he went to Paris, where he studied sculpture with Ossip Zadkine but also continued to paint. After returning to New York in 1951, he studied art education at New York University, earning a BA in 1952 and an MA two years later. He died in New York.

Subjects: Art.

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