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jules olitski at the goldman warehouse

Post #488 • March 8, 2005, 12:23 PM • 51 Comments

"Jules Olitski: Six Decades" is the best show on display in Miami right now. It reminds me of my t'ai chi teacher's martial arts skills: no frills, no nonsense, consummate mastery, and God help you if you get in the way.

Olitski has gotten better with age, and sixty years is a long time to get better. He has spent that time working out a painting motif in the Modernist mold: pure abstraction, and success by any means necessary. This has required his jettisoning perfectly successful styles that he brought to logical conclusions, and he seems to have done so with great courage and adventurous spirit.

The exhibition is prefaced by "Color Field Painting: Jules Olitski in Context," which one is obliged to peruse before entering the Olitski show proper. This is a useful accompaniment that features work by Olitski's contemporaries, although the work in it varies widely in quality. There's a terrible Frankenthaler, a Nolan that is so big and decorative as to come off as silly, and a Walter Darby Bannard whose handsomeness is noticiably compromised by dents and foxing. (I learned from the Beyond Geometry show at MAM that little imperfections that would be unnoticiable in any other kind of painting jump out in minimalist color field works.) On the other hand, there's a show-stealing Friedel Dzubas, whom I think is an underrated painter, an exciting Larry Poons in which violet drips rise upward out of ochre splashes, and a Morris Louis pour in which a veil of umber edged with pinks and corals floats with majesty in a 13-foot-wide expanse.

The Olitski show is divided into four bays, each concentrating on a stylistic period of the artist. The first has him working confidently with big, happy shapes - simple, hand-drawn geometries whose aesthetic seriousness relies almost exclusively on their enormous size. The best of these is One Time (1964, below), a bravely uncomplicated painting that hangs together with great authority and impressive beauty, even while managing to look cute.

The second explores his spray paintings, with luminous clouds of color that evoke galactic distances. It is in this series that Olitski began stopping the color fields short of one or two edges of the canvas, sometimes painting a border on them here and there. Olitski connoiseurs refer to this as moving the drawing to the edge - in other words, putting the figurative elements on the edges of the work in order to make the beautiful expanses of paint read as paintings instead of giant swatches of color. Below, Drakely, 1966.

Next come paintings in which he employs heavy applications of acrylics, which he then dusts with sprayed color. The earlier ones don't come off, and suggest that the edge-drawing strategy solved a serious problem for the artist - his mid-career attempts to put figurative elements in the center of the painting look insipid and stylized (especially Dark Domain from 1981). A few years later, though, he abandoned the edge-drawing and started pushing massive quanitites of irridecent gels around in handsome loops. These tended to compose themselves, especially when he darkened the edges of the canvas slightly to weigh down the centers. Below, Beauty of Lauren, 1989.

The most recent paintings show an enormous level of verve. Using fried-egg shapes on tumultuous backgrounds and the wildest colors available, Olitski makes them hold together as if they were a riot frozen in time. They justify close looking, as the artist employs a huge variety of painting effects involving layers of transparency, pours, smears, rips formed by the unique drying properties of acrylic gloss medium, and stuff I can't explain. Anyone who thinks abstraction doesn't require craftsmanship needs to come see these. Below, With Love and Disregard: Silence, 2002.

Miami's art world doesn't often get to see unmitigated greatness. These recent works are great, the kind of great that inspires a bit of discomfort upon initial viewing. That feeling fades, as areas that first appear grotesque begin to show how well they belong in their place in the composition. They seem to have formed by the power of their own heat and speed, like galaxies, and they reinforce Olitski's place as one of the great talents of the contemporary era.

Comment

1.

Franklin

March 8, 2005, 8:38 PM

Apologia: images appear courtesy the Goldman Warehouse, 404 NW 26 Street in Miami. Hours are weekends 11 - 4. I scanned all but "Beauty of Lauren" myself and they're a little moireed but they're all I can manage.

2.

Jack

March 8, 2005, 8:42 PM

Franklin, I'm sure it's not your fault, but these are poor reproductions--inevitably so in terms of scale, which makes a big difference, and also in terms of color, which is another critical aspect of Olitski's work. The photo of "Drakely," one of my favorites in the show, is terrible; it makes a majestic work look cheap. "One Time" is overexposed; "Beauty of Lauren" looks too dull and drab. "Silence" is the best of the lot, but it's not quite right , either. In other words, people need to go to the Goldman place (weekends 11-4, free admission) and see the show live. It's eminently worth it.

3.

that guy in the second to last row

March 8, 2005, 8:55 PM

True Jack. They all need to be seen in person, but these pictures hold up. The opening is Friday night.

4.

Momoko

March 8, 2005, 9:21 PM

I was waiting to write about the artist’s refusal to be in rectangles, but Franklin wrote enough about edges, so I don't see the point of repeating the art of edges.

5.

flatboy

March 8, 2005, 9:36 PM

that guy in the second row: Will Olitski attend the Friday opening?

6.

Momoko

March 8, 2005, 9:44 PM

The receptionist at the Goldman’s said the artist would be coming to town. I would assume the artist will attend the opening.

7.

flatboy

March 8, 2005, 9:46 PM

Thanks Momko. I would like to fly down then, but don't know if I can manage it.

8.

oldpro

March 8, 2005, 10:13 PM

Flatboy: Jules will be there with his wife Kris and perhaps daughter Lauren, who has a show opening at Tribby in W Palm Wed. night. And Jules will be at his opening at Camino Real in Boca Thursday night.

The entire world of "formalism" will be down Friday, it seems, Karen Wilkin, who curated the show and wrote the excellent catalog, Bill Agee, the former director of the Houston Museum who is doing a "Color Field" show for the AFA, Ken Moffett, former director of Ft Lauderdale and champion of "Newnew" painting, David Mirvish from Toronto, who may have the most extensive collection of recent Modernist painting in the world, the Goldmans, of course, lots of painters & sculptors & museum & gallery people from all over who admire Jules, and luminaries galore. Serious art people, not Basel trippers, though there may be some of those as well.

Me too. I will be wearing a pink carnation. (yeah, sure).

Franklin, can you put up more pix? They are all in the catalog.

9.

that guy in the second to last row

March 8, 2005, 10:14 PM

Thats the rumor. Funny, I've heard from two reliable sources that the opening is both, open to the public, and by invite only. I guess we will have to find out friday night. I'm sure if you fly into town they would let you in regaurdless. Sob stories always break the bouncers heart. We might be able to put you up for a few nights flats, email Franklin for my email address. Hitchhiking is always fun. It would be worth the trip even if you were in Taipei.

10.

oldpro

March 8, 2005, 10:22 PM

I am sure it is opoen to all. This is not some kind of Miami Beach velvet rope deal. If you have any doubts contact:

The Goldman Warehouse
404 NW 26th St, FL
Miami, FL 33127
phone: 305-531-4411
Email: info@goldmanproperties.com
Hours: sat-sun 11-4 or by app

11.

Franklin

March 8, 2005, 10:23 PM

Re more pix: they're coming out so badly I hesitate to do further injustice to the man's work.

12.

Jack

March 8, 2005, 11:12 PM

Well, if this doesn't get Herald coverage now, we might as well give up all hope for the local rag. Surely the Goldmans have alerted the media, so we''ll see how the media responds.

13.

Franklin

March 9, 2005, 12:09 AM

I take it that my essay has obviated the need for further discussion.

14.

oldpro

March 9, 2005, 12:59 AM

8t|8t*?the people i have observed at the warehouse were quiet and and contemplative, perhaps even a little puzzled.

Really good new art in this quantity all at once is something we don't see around here and people don't seem to know what to make of it.

15.

flatboy

March 9, 2005, 2:48 AM

Since the OldPro will be wearing a pink carnation I'll be wearing a black one. (Really)

16.

Jack

March 9, 2005, 2:56 AM

Flatboy, I don't expect Oldpro will be wearing any carnation, but if you wear one, I'm sure he'll say hello, as I will. Try to arrange for someone to drive you to the Goldman place if you're not familiar with the area; it's not in the best neighborhood, though I go there all the time. Franklin should be able to find someone to escort you, so to speak.

17.

Jack

March 9, 2005, 3:06 AM

Oldpro, I think what you're saying is that the work is rather more substantial than usual around here, even at venues that should ONLY show substantial work, so it's more than usual for people to chew on and digest. Also, the nature of the space, especially when it's not crowded, encourages contemplation. And by the way, for those who may wonder about it (and it can make a difference), the space is VERY well climate-controlled. The Goldmans, unlike Brook Dorsch, could keep the place as cold as a meat locker if they chose.

18.

oldpro

March 9, 2005, 3:26 AM

That is just about right, Jack.

Flatboy, where are you coming from?

19.

Miguel Sánchez

March 9, 2005, 6:14 AM

I haven't seen enough later Olitski to really judge, but I'm afraid it's always been my opinion that in this case, the cliche about the early stuff being the best rang true. But when I read that "there's a show-stealing Friedel Dzubas, whom I think is an underrated painter", I can only say to the first part, I'm not surpised, and to the second, I completely agree.

20.

taterh###333d/z

March 9, 2005, 6:39 AM

Allrightie folks. this is the show that will forever go down as the show that had the Artblog crowd panties in a bunch.

Hopelessly old school, and not half bad. I still like the oldest and newest stuff best. The stuff from 2002 is amazing, but anyone who's seen it up close knows something they're embarrased to say - Olitski used some agazing nonstandard techniques to make these paintings. Then, after they'd dried, he went back with a stupid paintbrush with pink paint, and covered up the stuff he didn't like. When I saw them, the ones that had this looked embarrasing. There's a word for this that anyone who is serious about ANY field, art or not, will be familliar with: cheating.

The reproduction of 'One Time' reminds me of how good some of the early ones were. I stand by my earlier comment that Olitski pretty much let the current of whatever was going on in abstract painting in each decade guide him, rather then setting trends himself. In fact, I find it absurd to disagree with this. But it's not absurd to find it forgivable. I simply don't care for the spray techniques. I can't get exited about "moving the drawing to the edge." I suspect that if I had half a dozen decades to spend filling up outsized canvases with paint, I'd come up with some pretty cool ideas for doing so, too.

The hubris of this stuff still strikes me as its strongest quality.

The best show hanging in Miami right now? Maybe. What's it got to compete with, the Richard Prince show at the Rubell? Ok, fine, the Olitski stuff is better. Happy? Geez...

Also, I'd like a recount on the Frankenthaller.

21.

taterh###333d/z MARK2

March 9, 2005, 6:44 AM

F~ try scanning the pictures at 600 dpi, add enough gaussian blur (.5-1 pixels, then adjust the percent) (or sometimes "smart blur" is better) to get rid of the moiree, then resample down.

22.

flatboy

March 9, 2005, 6:49 AM

"I suspect that if I had half a dozen decades to spend filling up outsized canvases with paint, I'd come up with some pretty cool ideas for doing so, too." then toe-toe head says "The hubris of this stuff still strikes me as its strongest quality"

Kind of annoying way to put it, toe-toe. But go ahead and do it if you can.

I'm coming, if I can, from California.

23.

Franklin

March 9, 2005, 6:54 AM

One of my favorite statements about the martial arts was made by the great swordsman Miyamoto Musashi in The Book of Five Rings: "For indoor combat, nothing is better than firearms." There's no such thing as cheating.

I don't see the hubris. They're honest and bold but not arrogant. Now, the Richard Prince show at the Rubell's, there's your hubris.

No recount on the Frankenthaler. The Frankenthaler stinks. Anyone else have feelings about it?

600 dpi might have done it. I did what you suggest above but at 400 dpi with normal Blur. I'll try the Gaussian blur next time and the higher rez.

24.

taterh###333d/z MARK2

March 9, 2005, 7:02 AM

whatever, dude. i know my frankenthaller, and that one made me happy.

if you're going to a swordfight with a muskett, you're cheating. if you're making a grainy B&W 16mm film and you digitize a section in the middle and fiddle with it in the computer you're cheating. and if you make a series of canvases by dripping massive amounts of paint and rolling it around while they're wet and then touch a couple of them up (with pink!!) after they've dried . . . well, all of you are going back in a few days; if you can spare a moment, look for yourselves, and see if you still think the master is infalliable.

i'm sorry to annoy you, flatboy. but of course i'm not going to do it. i've got better things to do with my few remaining decades on this marble. maybe i'm being an ass - 'i could do that if i wanted to, i just don't want to' is not a good response to anything, and i don't mean it to trivilize Olitski's accomplishments, which are impressive.

25.

Franklin

March 9, 2005, 7:20 AM

Apparently Tater gets nervous without clear-cut divisions between things. The duel requires an agreement between parties, so the gun is cheating. But why is digitizing a film cheating? And I guess his worldview can't handle the possibility that someone might think the master was great but not infallible, the latter which no one has claimed (and I claimed to the contrary above).

26.

oldpro

March 9, 2005, 7:31 AM

There is no cheating in art, Potato. If you have to cheat, lie, steal or roll around in the paint you do it if it makes your art better.

And since when is using a brush or touching up with pink "cheating"? That is just arrant nonsense. And if you are going to continue talking about Olitski being such a trend follower you either should justify it or shut up.

I really do think you should either work out your statements a little better or shut up altogether, and I say this even though I am sure I am close to violating franklin's guidelines by doing so.

Franklin is right about the Frankenthaler. It is one of the worst Frankenthalers I have ever seen. And I know my Frankenthaler too.

Miguel, your comment about Dzubas was a bit too elliptical for me to comprehend. Was it meant to be a compliment or some kind of put-down?

27.

taterh###333d/z MARK2

March 9, 2005, 7:39 AM

Naw, it's cool - i'm chill~!

Sometimes things carry within them an implicit set of rules. I agree that it's up to each viewer to assess for herself. I'm just saying the brushed-in pink on the 2002's bugged me. If nobody else agrees then i'll never mention it again (just for the record though, what did you think of that detail when you saw it? or did you not notice?) (but i'll think less of olitski for it).

w/r/t "which nobody has claimed," all I can say is 'thank you,' having been the target of refutations of statements that nobody'd made quite recently (dag - an in-line link would have been great here; i guess i'll have to go spend 29.99 on a crappy html book, then).

oldpro~ are you sure you know what touch-ups i'm talking about? the "anything to make the art better" saw is way too easy a reflex for you to jump to. I'm saying to me they quite violently DETRACT from the work.

Then again, part of my appreciation of these sorts of paintings has to do with looking at them from a distance, then walking up close and looking at the surface. Since you think Jpegs are an adequate way to look at work, maybe you don't do this? That would explain why you're not bothered by the after-the-fact manipulations. Check: I'm more of a purist then oldpro!

w/r/t " I really do think you should either work out your statements a little better or shut up," all i can say, with all the exuberence you can possibly imagine, "you shut up, stupid!!". Also, "your momma!"

28.

taterh###333d/z MARK2

March 9, 2005, 7:46 AM

o/p - i mean "yo' momma!"

and you're right, i'd better do whatever you say or shut up. We know how Franklin deals with people who play fast and loose with his HTML and disagree with you!!

29.

oldpro

March 9, 2005, 7:48 AM

Saying that I have ever said jpgs are an "adequate way of looking at work" is untrue, Potato, and at this point you must be saying it knowing full well it is untrue and simply to be annoying. it is annoying. it does not contribute to the discussion. Please stop saying it.

Whatever it is you are talking about (and I don't have any idea what it is) may detract from the painting, but that is not the same as "cheating". You are doing your slithery logic thing again.

30.

Jack

March 9, 2005, 7:52 AM

This seems painfully obvious, and I'm not even an artist, but hasn't anybody heard of pentimenti? As in, painting over or repainting till one's satisfied with the outcome? The practice has only being going on for, like, EVER, and calling it cheating is like saying a book that went through an editing process is somehow tainted. Liking or disliking Olitski's work is one thing, but this is just, well, as Oldpro says, Good grief!

As for the Frankenthaler at the Goldman show, I found it interesting but hardly first-rate HF, though this is a matter of personal taste. The Dzubas was very striking, a terrific piece, and the Poons was excellent.

31.

taterh###333d/z MARK2

March 9, 2005, 7:54 AM

you make me chuckle, oldpro. and you make me cry. Are you saying, then, that they are "inadequate"? You ARE saying they are "not adequate" . . . so is there something inbetween? Not ADEQUATE, not INADEQUATE, but something . . . else?

YOU're giving ME crap for slithery?!?!?

Good grief. Drop a few hundred lines of blank post and see how long it takes for people to read your comments, let alone devote actual literal thought to them.

32.

taterh###333d/z MARK2

March 9, 2005, 7:56 AM

you're a reasonable guy, Jack. go back and look for what i'm talking about, and i think you'll agree that olitski made a mistake.

what i'm saying may sound unreasonable, but the work will speak for itself. (now who do i sound like? (shit.))

33.

Franklin

March 9, 2005, 2:27 PM

Artists do have to impose some kind of rules on themselves for the sake of creating a reasonable set of specific problems to deal with, but violating them doesn't constitute cheating, although it can feel like it to the artist. If brushing paint on the surface after pouring it or whatnot was a cop-out on the artist's part, I think it would have come off that way. It doesn't in this case. I felt more unsure about some of the poured edges in the recent paintings, but I had to admit finally that they worked too.

WRT becoming "the target of refutations of statements that nobody'd made," a persona that was created to yank chains is going to have to deal maturely with this kind of payback, at least in private.

Miguel has gone on record (on his blog) as a big fan of color field painting and I'm sure the above is meant as a compliment.

34.

Oldpro

March 9, 2005, 4:58 PM

Through some perversity of my own I keep answering you, Potato. Maybe it is perservering rather than perverse, but sometimes I despair.

Every time the JPEG matter thing comes up I say one thing and one thing only: you can tell a lot about a painting from a reproduction of a painting. You can tell if it has red or blue in it. You can tell if it is a painting of a Giraffe. You can tell if is square or if it is long and narrow.

There are some things you cannot tell, and it is always best to defer esthetic judgement until you see the real thing. Please, in the future, do not say that I said anything else. I am tired of correcting you. OK?

35.

Franklin

March 9, 2005, 5:26 PM

Now that you mention it, I think that last painting has a giraffe in it.

36.

Miguel Sánchez

March 9, 2005, 5:29 PM

Miguel has gone on record (on his blog) as a big fan of color field painting and I'm sure the above is meant as a compliment.

Yes, it was - sorry for the lack of clarity. I completely agree that Dzubas is underrated and I'm not surprised his painting is a "show-stealer". He may never have been as highly rated as some others, but I think he has held up very well. I'm very curious about that Frankenthaler, though - I tend to run hot and cold on her work and wonder how I'd react to this one.

37.

olfpro

March 9, 2005, 5:50 PM

It wasn't that you were especially unclear, Miguel - in fact, literally it was clear enough - but I am so wary of tangled statements on this blog that I am often not sure what someone really means.

I completely agree. Dzubas is a fine painter and underrated, and I am pleased to see that you find he is "holding up", because that's what counts in the end.

So what did you think of the Frankenthaler? Franklin & I didn't like it much. Potato loved it, which I take to be a confirmation of our opinion.

38.

Franklin

March 9, 2005, 6:05 PM

Miguel, unfortunately for that last question, is in Boston.

39.

Kathleen

March 9, 2005, 7:00 PM

The last two images posted here remind me of something one would have seen hanging in JJ's Diner in the mid '80's. I like the second image pretty well, and the first is okay, but makes me think of the pediatrician's office. I do understand the limitations of the jpeg, so I do realize that in person something magical might happen, perhaps a veil lifted to reveal the mysteries . . . . however. That is unlikely to happen, as I'm not going to go to the opening, nor likely to the show, for the same reasons OP doesn't make the trip to MAM, basically. Don't think I'm being catty; I have my immobile positions as well.

If I had to give a tour of the show, I'd certainly read and study all I could about the works, and I wouldn't shirk a bit on giving the best tour possible, with the aim on bringing the public closer to the work.

Personally, though, I guess this is a case of art making me think about a lot of things. Unfortunately, the things I'm thinking about are quasi-public spaces which are scuzzy on the edges and ill-cared for, places to be occupied for forty minutes only, no longer.

40.

oldpro

March 9, 2005, 7:11 PM

Kathleen, I guess your references to JJ's Diner and the pediatricians office are mean to be put-downs, but I am puzzled. Do those places have abstract painting hanging around?

As for MAM, as I have said before, (and as Jack says repeatedly), if there is a show I want to see I will go. If this show was there I sure as hell would go see it.

41.

taterh###333d/z MARK2

March 9, 2005, 7:23 PM

I read Kathleen's characteristically spot-on and uncharacteristically (though appealingly) cryptic comments as being in line with what I said before. The work from the 80's stuffers from 80's cliches, especially the (horribly named) Beauty of Lauren.

Please don't tell me about how he must have SET those trends. It's from the tail end of the decade!

Kathleen, you might consider combining a trip to the Goldmans' with a trip to the Margulies. There's a whole new wing there, and his stuff will offset the old-school Olitski (which is worth a look, if not worth a trip).

42.

that guy in the second to last row

March 9, 2005, 7:45 PM

"Kathleen, you might consider combining a trip to the Goldmans' with a trip to the Margulies. There's a whole new wing there, and his stuff will offset the old-school Olitski (which is worth a look, if not worth a trip)."

We did this a few weeks ago and Margulies has a great space filled up with second rate art. This was made painfully clear after seeing the Olitski retrospective. Kathleen should do this if only to compare the two shows. If photos of buildings and deadpan portraiture is your thing only leading you to the real thing will change that.

43.

Franklin

March 9, 2005, 8:29 PM

Please don't tell me about how he must have SET those trends. If he didn't, I'm not sure who did. Any ideas?

Actually, it doesn't much matter who started them. He used the related techniques as well as anyone around.

44.

Miguel Sánchez

March 9, 2005, 9:23 PM

Miguel, unfortunately for that last question, is in Boston.

Dividing my time between Providence, Worcester and Boston, to be exact. It's been fun driving this winter.

Sorry for the continued confusion. I meant that I would like to see the Frankenthaler - but obviously, that's not practical. As I said, my reactions to her work tend to be extreme - some paintings have made me want to dance, others I cringed when looking at. So given the divergent reactions here to the one on exhibit, I was curious as to how I would react to it. But we will never know...

45.

Franklin

March 10, 2005, 12:30 AM

I'm not going to go to the opening, nor likely to the show, for the same reasons OP doesn't make the trip to MAM, basically. Don't think I'm being catty; I have my immobile positions as well.

What positions would those be, Kathleen? At least in regards to this show?

46.

oldpro

March 10, 2005, 5:37 AM

If she is not going to the show for the same reason I don't go to MAM shows it is either because she thinks the art is not interesting, or, as I admitted about myself a few blogs back, she is too lazy.

All positions are immobile, by the way, or they would not be positions. What she probably meant was "unchangeable".

And that's a shame.

47.

Jack

March 11, 2005, 5:36 AM

Since the roundup may or may not continue, some of you may care to check out the latest New Times (or the NT website, under Culture) for an interview by Alfredo Triff of Mr. Goldman & Son, the developers behind the Goldman Warehouse and the Olitski show. The piece is mostly about their plans for Wynwood development, but there's some art talk at the end.

48.

that guy in the second to last row

March 12, 2005, 8:14 AM

"the end of the world as we now know it."

John Link = always useful

The show was a little bit of the end of the world, little bit something new. Watching Larry Poons was priceless. Watching Jules struggling out of a chair was painful. Smoking out back with the receptionist was educational. After that third glass of wine it seemed like just another night out with the guys. Watching Momoko take off with Jack... um bizarreo. hiccups until now.... master-card

49.

Jack

March 12, 2005, 6:24 PM

Jack was acting as Momoko's designated driver to Smoke Gallery in North Miami. It was all very artistic.

As for the Olitski reception, I got there after most of the A-crowd had left (the thing appparently started at 5:30), but I had another nice look at the show, got some decent champagne, and procured a catalog, which has photos of all the paintings. After I read the essays by Karen Wilkin, the curator, I think Flatboy should have it, since he couldn't come in person. So Flatboy, send Franklin your street address, and we'll mail it to you.

Finally, I highly recommend reading a speech given by Olitski a few years ago, which can be found at:

http://newcrit.art.wmich.edu/plain/JObarley.html

50.

Jack

March 12, 2005, 7:25 PM

As for the somewhat controversial Frankenthaler painting at the Goldman show, I finally decided that it should have been done on paper on a smaller scale. I'm pretty sure it would have worked better that way.

51.

flatboy

March 12, 2005, 9:13 PM

Thank you Jack. Looks like I have friends in Miami, even though I've never been there. I'm appreciative.

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