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A Legend in Focus: Donald Sultan at Huxley-Parlour

ViewZine Admin
A Legend in Focus: Donald Sultan at Huxley-Parlour

Huxley-Parlour Gallery are delighted to present a retrospective exhibition of works by acclaimed American painter Donald Sultan. Spread over two floors of the London gallery, the exhibition includes 17 works produced from 1977 through to 2019. It is the first exhibition of the artist’s work in London in 10 years and provides an opportunity to re-evaluate these important and influential paintings at a prescient time.

Sultan is known for his large-scale paintings produced using a range of industrial and non-art materials, including tar, latex and rubber, and for his graphic and restrained investigations of form. The exhibition looks to reassert Sultan’s status as a vital figure in the reinvention of painting that occurred in New York in the 1980s, and also in the reestablishment of figuration in contemporary painting. 

The exhibition includes early, smaller-scale experiments in tar, tile and Masonite from the 1970s, three monumental works from Sultan’s celebrated series ‘Disaster Paintings’ as well as works in charcoal from his series ‘Black Lemons’.

Donald, how does it feel to be in London?

I love London but I always feel underdressed!

Dark Objects: Works 1977-2019 presents 17 works from throughout you career, what do you hope the viewer takes away from seeing these different bodies together?

I want the viewers to look at the work and think about the continuum of everyday life, which is a comprised of different ideas and different images. 

 The disaster paintings were done in the ‘80s. Was there anything about that decade that bled into the work?

The 80s works were full of the death of the industrial age in America on the one hand and the rise of the end that’s the translation to the horrific that flickered through the media like yogurt commercials I wanted to create works that compelled the viewer deal with each one not for what it was but for what it represents.  These works were confrontational, some were very hard to read and very chaotic, much like being involved in an actual event that is hard to grasp and impossible to avoid.  I was striving for something that was individually meaningful and conceptually correct.  By digging into the linoleum and other building materials with the washes and gouges of tar and paint made them a real event and not an illustration. This is consistent with all the works, each has the effect of being not an illustration but a solid contained event.

When / why did you stop painting the disasters?

I stopped painting these pictures in about 1994 or 95 but the themes of life and loss continued in different ways. I felt that I had said what I wanted to say. I may revisit this in a different way in the future. The new catastrophes are quite different in both scale and danger. 

Why latex and tar, tile and Masonite, what about these industrial materials spoke to you?

The materials are used for what I considered the new landscape of internal life: offices, schools, public buildings, houses, Studio’s, etc. The remnants of standardized vistas. The materials were also cheap.

The exhibition includes a number of your still life works, from the black lemons to more recent explorations in this area, can you say more about these and your interest in the reduction of form?

The black works on paper were a response to the compressions of the gritty debris around us compressed into dance blackness. Form and void. They were a response to our transition from the agrarian to the urbane. These works contain both the permanent and the ephemeral. They concretize the weight of flatness and pose questions about the concept of visual depth. 

Donald Sultan: Dark Objects

5th Jun 2019 - 29th Jun 2019


 3-5 Swallow Street