OLITSKI IN THE XXI CENTURY
JULES OLITSKI’s Late Paintings reinvestigate the color, impasto, and handling found in his earlier paintings – cultivating his previous styles and influences, and delivering his final messages to the world.
Referred to as “Orb” paintings by his friend, the artist, Walter Darby Bannard, his Late Works are among the brightest and boldest within his oeuvre. The subject matter appears to transition from ethereal, earthly landscapes to cosmic playgrounds. The process includes methods that he used when creating his Spackle, Stain, and Spray paintings. To form the “Orbs”, Olitski piled acrylic gel often mixed with pumice and other mediums onto the canvas, then smoothed out the emulsion with his hand in a circular motion, creating the Haute Pâte-material effect starkly evident in his Spackle paintings of the late 1950s. The “Orbs” in these Late Paintings also seem to refer back to the nebulous circles of the Stain period of the early ‘60s. Olitski used a portable air blower to mix paint across the surface of the canvas, recalling his experiments with unorthodox tools in his Spray paintings of the late ‘60s as well as brooms, mops and squeegees used in the ‘70s and ‘80s. The Late Works are often framed with a colorful outline reminiscent of the edges in many Spray paintings. The combining of these techniques, as well as the vibrant palette, culminates into something uniquely celebratory in the Late Work.
Throughout Olitski’s career, naming a painting was significant and done after completion. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Olitski preferred not to give a painting a simple title or number. Instead, he would choose a specific reference to something he’d read or experienced, “something personal that maybe no one else would know.” The Late titles often reference spiritual texts or articulate an attitude, often reinforcing Olitski’s belief that being an artist is “… a spiritual and a moral undertaking.” The titles evoke hope, introspection and optimism.