Reevaluating the Art of Donald Sultan at Huxley-Parlour

June 3, 2019

The New York art scene in the early 1980s was saturated with various tendencies – from the do-it-yourself practices happening on the margins, to the high-end solo exhibitions happening within the institutions. However, the prevailing trend was the return to painting and the majority of artists which had just emerged became stars more or less overnight. While some vanished in the coming few years, others left quite a mark, and one of those artists was Donald Sultan.

In brief, this skillful painter managed to establish an authentic style which made him recognizable. Throughout the years, he has been exploring various formal and conceptual aspects of the painterly surface, which he does still with the same sharpness and devotion.

In order to re-evaluate his oeuvre accordingly, Huxley-Parlour decided to organize Sultan’s first retrospective on the British soil by gathering his seminal works in one specific exhibition space.

Left Donald Sultan - Building Canyon Right Donald Sultan - Black Lemons
Left: Donald Sultan - Building Canyon, 19 April, 1977, Tar and masonite on wood, 12 x 12 inches Gallery / Right: Donald Sultan - Black Lemons, 21 March, 1985, Charcoal on paper, 38 x 50 inches. © the artist, Courtesy Huxley-Parlour Gallery

The Exhibition Context

Donald Sultan is undoubtedly one of the best-known proponents of New Image movement, which dominated the New York art scene during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The abstract landscapes constructed of various industrial tools and materials made him almost instantly recognizable. The painter was focused on producing powerful and multilayered artworks by focusing specifically on the boundary between the abstract and the everyday.

This exhibition tends to show the full extent of his painterly experiments and will include seventeen works made between 1977 and 2019 will be arranged over two floors, and the highlight will be the three canvasses from his famous Disaster Paintings series.

Left Donald Sultan – Lemon Right Donald Sultan - Seven Black Flowers
Left: Donald Sultan - Lemon, 19 January, 1989, Tar, spackle and tile over wood, 12 x 12 inches / Right: Donald Sultan - Seven Black Flowers, 7 June, 1999, Charcoal on paper, 60 x 40 inches. © the artist, Courtesy Huxley-Parlour Gallery

The Installment

On display will be Sultan’s smaller-scale experiments in tar, tile, and Masonite from the 1970s, along with charcoal works from his Black Lemons series; all of those works were shown in 1988 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York and they can be considered as a start of the reduction of form.

A later series titled Disaster Paintings were created by the artist throughout the 1980s, and each is inspired by disastrous industrial or urban events (train derailments, warehouse fires or freight, etc.)

Left Donald Sultan - Domino Right Donald Sultan - Golden Flower
Left: Donald Sultan - Domino, 10 November, 1990, Tar, latex, spackle on tile over wood, 12.5 x 12.5 inches / Right: Donald Sultan - Golden Flower, 23 October, 1998, Yellow latex and gold leaf on paper, 60 x 48 inches. © the artist, Courtesy Huxley-Parlour Gallery

Donald Sultan at Huxley-Parlour

The upcoming exhibition will definitely underline the significance of Sultan’s practice and his role in 1980s return to painting phenomenon. The gallery director Giles Huxley-Parlour explained the decision to showcase his works:

The New York art scene of the 1980s gave rise to many great talents, and the paintings in this exhibition reveal Donald Sultan to be one of the key figures of that period. The featured works reveal a painter of vital, unerring energy and unique talent. It is an honor to be able to bring his work together for this timely retrospective.

Donald Sultan: Dark Objects, Works 1977-2019 will be on display at Huxley-Parlour in London from 5 June until 29 June 2019.

Featured image: Donald Sultan - Mimosa, 12 April, 2019, Conté crayon and graphite on paper, 27.5 x 39.5 inches; Donald Sultan at his St. Tropez studio copy. © the artist, Courtesy Huxley-Parlour.

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