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Jules Olitski notes to Joan Olitski, 1981-2004

Biographical Note

Painter and sculptor Jules Olitski (1922-2007) lived and worked from New York City; Meredith, New Hampshire; and Islamorada, Florida and was known for his color field abstractions and painted metal sculptures. Born Jevel Demikovsky in Snovsk, Russia (now Shchors, Ukraine), Olitski's father was politically executed months after his birth, and his mother and grandmother moved with him to the United States in 1923. Showing an early propensity for art, Olitski trained at both New York's National Academy of Design and the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design and furthered his art studies in Paris. After returning to New York, Olitski received a master's in art education from NYU in 1954 and subsequently taught at C.W. Post College (1956-1963) and Bennington College (1963-1967).
His first solo show of abstract impastos at the Alexander Iolas Gallery in 1958 caught the attention of art critic Clement Greenberg, who continued to champion him throughout his career. In the 1960s, Olitski came to prominence with color field paintings that used stain and spray methods to emphasize the broad, flat plane of the canvas. By the 1970s, he began producing and painting large scale abstract aluminum sculptures and returned to painting in the more textured style he had used in the 1950s.
Olitski, along with Roy Lichtenstein, Helen Frankenthaler, and Ellsworth Kelly, was selected to represent the United States at the 1966 Venice Biennale and was also the first living artist invited to exhibit a one-person show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1969. A prolific artist, he exhibited in over 150 solo shows and was elected to the National Academy of Design in 1994. Olinski continued painting and exhibiting new abstractions of monochrome landscapes late into his career and died of cancer in New York.