George Washington Celebrates Jules Olitski

A new exhibit of the abstract painter’s works is on display in the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery through Dec. 14.
“Jules Olitski on an Intimate Scale" is on display in the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery through Dec. 14.
September 25, 2012

Last week, the George Washington Luther W. Brady Art Gallery opened a special retrospective overview of the works of abstract painter Jules Olitski.

“Jules Olitski on an Intimate Scale,” which runs until Dec. 14, features 36 works and is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue with an essay by art historian E.A. Carmean Jr. This is the third Olitski exhibition at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery. In 2006, it presented “Jules Olitski: Works on Paper,” one of the last exhibitions of Olitski’s work prior to his death, and in 2009, the gallery exhibited “Jules Olitski: An Inside View, A Survey of Prints 1954 – 2007,” organized by the Brattleboro Museum.

The American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center is also celebrating Mr. Olitski’s works with a traveling exhibit, “Revelation: Major Paintings by Jules Olitski,” which features large canvases and is designed to contrast with the intimate works in the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery. “Revelation” was organized by the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and was curated by Mr. Carmean, art curator Karen Wilkin and  Alison de Lima Greene, curator of contemporary art and special projects at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Both American and George Washington’s exhibitions are retrospective overviews of Jules Olitski’s paintings organized by decade.

“Since the artist Jules Olitski never made studies, these small paintings [at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery] are little gems that parallel very closely with the large paintings in ‘Revelation,’” said Director and Chief Curator of University Galleries Lenore D. Miller. “They are enthralling.”

Last Thursday, Ms. Miller moderated a panel discussion on Mr. Olitski at the Phillips Collection featuring Mr. Carmean, Ms. Wilkin, Ms. de Lima Greene and the artist’s daughter Lauren Olitski Poster, director to the Olitski Family Estate, Vermont Warehouse Collection. Luther W. Brady, B.A. ’46, M.D. ’48, was also in attendance.

The panelists discussed the differences in impact and scale between the exhibits and shared personal stories about Mr. Olitski and his unique painting methods, which included the use of spray guns and leaf blowers.

Ms. Poster called the discussion “a family event,” noting the presence of Mr. Olitski’s wife and granddaughter in the audience. “We’re thrilled to be in D.C., and we’re thrilled to have so much going on here,” she said.

Ms. Miller discussed the Brady Gallery’s close relationship with the Olitski family, the

planning of “Jules Olitski On An Intimate Scale” and the exhibit’s contrast with “Revelation.”

“This way, we have what I would call a citywide celebration of Jules Olitski, and we are very grateful to the Phillips Collection for bringing us all together and starting this celebration,” said Ms. Miller.

A gold medal winner at the Corcoran Biennial, Mr. Olitski had his first museum exhibition of abstract paintings at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1967. He approached his paintings by covering the canvas with pure areas of color and experimenting with color, pigments and textures. Mr. Olitski applied the paint by staining, then later spraying and using unconventional tools such as brooms, mops and leaf blowers, among other things. The resulting artwork features diverse surfaces that diffuse color and light with rich variations in texture.

The Luther W. Brady Art Gallery is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Click here for more information.

Shaker, 1961

Magna acrylic on canvas, 25” x 16” (63.5 x 40.6 cm). Image courtesy of the Olitski Family Estate.