A Donald Sultan Retrospective
Posted by Jeralan on March 27, 2009 - 8:49am
Categories: Within the Walls

The Modern's Tuesday Evening Lecture Series featured the artist Donald Sultan. The North Carolina native, who completed his MFA at the Art Institute of Chicago, has achieved great success in the visual arts for 30 years.  His provocative paintings, prints, and sculptures can be seen in museums across the country including the Museum of Modern Art in New York. On Tuesday night, the Modern audience had the opportunity to see a brief survey of Donald Sultan's career.

Sultan began the discussion of his work with an image of his vibrant blue tiled morning glories.  The artist revealed that blue paint had been dropped onto something, and he then decided to create morning glories after realizing that the blue paint was similar to the flower's natural color.   Sultan then attached squares of linoleum tile to wood to create that first morning glory painting.  "I wanted to own the image of the morning glory.  I want people to think of me when they see the image of the morning glory, " said Sultan.  The blue morning glories soon gave way to tiled hard black/white buttons painted on tile of which came tile paintings of black/white dominoes with hard edges.  Sultan used materials around him or in his studio including linoleum, wood, tar, and spackle.  Working with the different materials allowed him to incorporate his theater background.

Sultan's charcoal tulip paintings definitely have a dramatic form.  He stated that he wanted the sooty, gritty charcoal to take on a life of its own.  The artist came to realize the charcoal tulips resembled a human figure.  The artist also told the audience that the Black Lemons May 20 1985, 1985 (pictured above) still life came from closing the bulbs of the charcoal tulips.  When asked why he used charcoal instead of color Sultan replied, " I wanted to make a natural image from dirt."

Systemic images of stacked vases, smoke rings, and poppies are all part of the artist's vernacular.  Sultan stated that his smoke rings paintings allowed him to take something soft and make it hard.  He described the smoke rings as sculptural, expressive, and floating.  Today the artist is working on turning his hard buttons into liquid and is preparing for his next body of work.