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Jules Olitski 10-Year Retrospective at Thorne Art Gallery

KEENE, N.H. 8/7/03 - American abstract artist Jules Olitski will exhibit work completed within the last ten years to open the 2003-04 season at the Thorne- Sagendorph Art Gallery at Keene State College. “Jules Olitski: A Ten-Year Retrospective 1993-2003,” which opens Tuesday, Sept. 2, and continues through Sunday, Oct. 12, will commemorate the tenth anniversary of the opening of the Thorne Gallery on Wyman Way.

A public interview with Olitski will take place at 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 20, in the Alumni Recital Hall of the Redfern Arts Center on Brickyard at Keene State. The 81-year-old painter and sculptor, considered one of the great contemporary abstract colorists, will answer questions about his professional life and work. The interviewer (to be announced) will invite the audience to ask questions at the end of the session.

A reception will follow the interview at the Thorne Gallery. Seating for the Olitski interview is limited, and people will be admitted on a first-come, first-seated basis. The lecture, reception, and exhibit are free and open to the public. For information, call the gallery at 603-358-2720.

Since 1993 when a retrospective of his work opened the new Thorne Gallery building, Olitski has continued a prolific creation of artwork ranging from his characteristic highly textured abstract canvases to vivid landscapes, monoprints, colorful life drawings, and metal sculptures. This retrospective exhibits work from the last ten years, during which time the artist has fluctuated between representational and abstract art returning to paint directly from nature and the human form to exploring abstract color and movement.

Olitski courageously goes beyond the given and the familiar, pioneering new techniques and materials and expanding his vision of himself, explains Maureen Ahern, director of the Thorne Gallery. She adds that Olitski follows a new visual idea as far as it will go, unmindful of critical verdict or market tastes, pronouncing a work finished only when for him it comes alive.

Olitski made his mark in the art world in the 1960s and was heralded as the best living abstract painter by formalist critic Clement Greenberg. He had his first solo exhibition in 1967 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and in 1969 was the first living artist ever to have a solo sculpture exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Considered a color- field painter, Olitski produces works that are freer and less severe than many artists associated with the 1960s abstraction movement. He has experimented with various media during his long career and introduced the use of the industrial spray gun and leaf blower to apply thick layers of paint to large canvases. He has worked directly with paint supply companies to create a clear tar gel paint that includes sand for texture, said his daughter Lauren Olitski, who lives in Marlboro, Vt., and is a successful artist in her own right.

During the 1990s, Jules Olitski started painting landscapes inspired by sunrises and sunsets at his summer home on New Hampshire’s Lake Winnepesaukee and his winter haven in the Florida Keys. When 40 such works were exhibited in 1996 at the Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery, “New Yorker” magazine writer Dodie Kazanjian considered Olitski’s landscapes more abstract than not and “so gorgeous that they risk critical scoldings.”

Similar landscapes were captured in an exhibit of Olitski’s monoprints displayed in 1999 at the Thorne. “Jules Olitski paints with such energy and passion that it is impossible to resist his art,” wrote art reporter Alice Fuld in the Keene Sentinel about the monoprint exhibit.

The retrospective exhibit will show items not previously seen in other exhibits at the Thorne, and most of Olitski’s works will be available for sale.

The gallery is open from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday through Wednesday, and noon to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday. The gallery is open only when Keene State College is in session. Located on Wyman Way, the gallery is accessible to people with disabilities. For information, call 603-358-2720 or visit

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