Jules Olitski

The Mitt Paintings 1988 – 1993

Galerie Templon continues to explore the work of leading American Color Field painter Jules Olitski (1922-2007) after showing his paintings from the 70s and 80s in 2015 et 2019 respectively. The new exhibition is divided into two parts, one in Paris, the other in New York at Yares Art, and focuses on his work from the 90s.

The series of Mitt paintings, not often exhibited during Jules Olitiski’s lifetime, bear witness to his unwavering passion for experimenting with colour and light. In the late 80s he was one of the first artists to grasp the brand-new artistic possibilities of the new range of paints supplied by Golden Artists Colors Inc., the pioneering acrylic paint company. After throwing and spraying an abundance of material and raw colour on the canvas, Olitski used mittens to spread it in a ballet of ample rippling movements that only looked improvised. The works shatter the codes of “simple” painting while flirting with the codes of sculpture. The canvases reveal a subtle play of surfaces where both the acrylic paint and the light are sensually sculpted. In the artist’s hands, the material is alternately luminous or sombre, matt or glowing, elastic or adhesive.

Starting in the 60s, Olitski pioneered an experimental practice, termed “modernist”, making it possible “to experience painting as painting” (Michael Fried). He then shifted to an approach unfettered by modernist leanings, oscillating between the materiality and immateriality of colour. With the Mitt paintings, he no longer confined himself to questioning the essence of the painting; the works also delve into the ambiguous nature of its surface and the notion of the random, in the form of the mysterious bond between hand and picture. The series thus marks the culmination of decades of artistic exploration and reflection on the power of the abstract.


The artist

Born in 1922 in Soviet Russia, Jules Olitski emigrated to the USA at a very young age. He was a master of Color Field Painting. After perfecting a spray-painting technique for laying colour onto his canvases, in the 1970s he went on to develop new techniques, spreading colours with a cloth or scraper or laying them on with a roller to create thickly structured surfaces. Jules Olitski died in 2007.

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