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Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art Presents Revelation: Major Paintings by Jules Olitski

Revelation: Major Paintings by Jules Olitski draws together 32 significant works from public and private collections and is the first overview of the artist’s paintings since his death in 2007. On view through August 28 at Kansas City’s Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Revelation was curated by E. A. Carmean Jr., Alison de Lima Greene, and Karen Wilkin and organized by the Kemper Museum. In 2012, it travels to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio; and the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, Washington, D.C.

Jules Olitski (1922–2007) first received international acclaim as a Color Field painter and continued to experiment with techniques and processes throughout his career. The exhibition’s works span five decades of Olitski’s creative output. The exhibition’s curators have organized the exhibition of groupings of Stain paintings, Spray paintings, Baroque paintings, High Baroque paintings, and the artist’s Late paintings.

Olitski’s signature Color Field paintings were created in the late 1950s and 1960s and feature bold colors and flat graphic shapes. This was a pivotal time for Olitski. He had his first solo exhibition in New York in 1958, and his works attracted the attention of art critic Clement Greenberg, who championed the artist’s work for decades. In 1963, he began teaching at Bennington College in Vermont where he became friends Kenneth Noland, David Smith, Robert Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler, and Anthony Caro. The artists often exchanged ideas and visited each other’s studios and exhibitions.

Later in the 1960s, Olitski wanted to create a sense of weightless and suspended color. He began using a spray gun to apply paint and created his large-scale Spray paintings. In 1966, Olitski represented the United States in the 33rd Venice Biennale along with artists Frankenthaler, Roy Lichtenstein, and Ellsworth Kelly. Remaining faithful to abstraction throughout his career, Olitski explored textures with iridescent colors in the 1970s and 1980s and at times used mops, brooms, and mitts to apply paint. In the last decade of his life, “the artist expressed an almost unbridled sense of freedom and drama, at once timeless, lurid, and perhaps even audacious,” notes Kemper Museum Director Rachael Blackburn Cozad in the exhibition’s catalogue.

Born in 1922 in Snovsk, Russia, Olitski came to America as a child. He served the U.S. during World War II and then studied art in Paris on the GI Bill between 1949 and 1951 at the Ossip Zadkine School and the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. Olitski later earned degrees from New York University, and after teaching for many years Olitski devoted himself fully to painting, printmaking, and sculpture in Vermont and later in New Hampshire and Florida.

In 1967, he was awarded the Corcoran Gold Medal and William A. Clark Award at the 30th Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary Painters at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The Corcoran then organized a major exhibition of his works that traveled to the San Francisco Museum of Art, and in 1973, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston organized a retrospective that traveled to the Albright-Knox Gallery of Art, Buffalo, NY, and New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art. Since then, his works have been included in numerous exhibitions and may be found in collections around the world.

A fully illustrated catalogue includes essays by Carmean, Greene, and Wilkin, as well as select writings by Olitski. It is available through

Support for Kemper Museum exhibitions is generously provided by Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; Arvin Gottlieb Charitable Foundation, UMB Bank, n.a., Trustee; Francis Family Foundation; Richard J. Stern Foundation for the Arts, Commerce Bank, Trustee; David Woods Kemper Memorial Foundation; William T. Kemper Foundation—Commerce Bank, Trustee; ArtsKC Fund—Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City; DST Systems, Inc.; and Sosland Foundation. Frontier Airlines is the official airline of the Kemper Museum.

Image: Jules Olitski, “Prince Patutszky Pleasures,” 1962. Magna acrylic on canvas, 89 3/4 x 88 inches Collection of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri, Bebe and Crosby Kemper Collection, Gift of the R. C. Kemper Charitable Trust, 2009.21 Image: © Jules Olitski Estate/Licensed by VAGA, New York; photo: Dan Wayne.

Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art
4420 Warwick Boulevard
Kansas City, Missouri 64111
T 816-753-5784

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