OPEN HOUSE “Donald Sultan: New Works” at McClain Gallery

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OPEN HOUSE “Donald Sultan: New Works” at McClain Gallery

March 16 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm


MARCH 16 – APRIL 27, 2024: McClain Gallery presents “Donald Sultan: New Works” featuring a selection of paintings and drawings that are a continuation of the artist’s ongoing investigation of abstraction using the aesthetic structure of the mimosa tree in bloom. Inspired by the plants found in the French Riviera, this body of work highlights the artist’s innovative use of materials. This is the first solo exhibition of Sultan’s works at McClain Gallery and comes after a ten-year absence in Houston.

Donald Sultan has a decades-long history of exhibiting in Houston with ten shows at the legendary Meredith Long Gallery. Meredith Long is recognized as one of Texas’ most iconic art dealers and part of a significant chapter of Houston art history. Long represented Sultan’s work throughout his career, and showed many of his early works such as his large-format, densely rendered charcoal drawings of eggs and lemons. These early works on paper relate to the abstracted still lifes created with highly textured, innovative media such as tar and plaster for which Sultan is most known.

Still working with materials that lend themselves to highly textured surfaces, Sultan created the recent paintings and drawings presented at McClain Gallery simultaneously, resulting in a seamless connection between the two media. Several drawings in charcoal, conté, and graphite on paper of mimosas range from delicate dangling strings to dense bushes of all over abstracted flowers. The paintings on masonite are richly textured; the use of smooth enamel, sticky tar, and gritty cement exacerbates the focus on surface. Exposed sides provide a particular insight into a complex creative process that is both sculptural and architectural. The multi-layer technique begins with Sultan drawing directly on the masonite panel followed by various masking layers that are cut away or painted over with thicker materials – enamel, tar. The contrast of man-made substances against the delicacy of a natural-world subject produces a fascinating juxtaposition.

In the painting Blue and Black Mimosa Dec 22022, Sultan explores his long-standing interest in reducing recognizable imagery to simple shapes. The non-objective nature of abstraction is applied to figuration as a filter that essentializes the object into simple geometry and graphic impact. In this painting, the artist removes the mimosa blossom from its branches and places it against a stark white background. The disentangled deep blue and stark white blooms are depicted as layered circles which contrast sharply with the tar-black foliage. The circles bob along a flow of dark leaves, reminiscent of the movement of wind through trees, calling back to natural processes through the meticulous application of industrial materials.

Color plays a prominent role in Pink Mimosa November 21, 2023. In this work, Sultan combines rich salmon pink and silver mimosa flowers with four planes of leaf forms. The matte gray leaves – made of smoothly applied cement – provide a collage-like surface because of their dimensional edges. The rough texture of this two panel painting on masonite causes the viewer to oscillate between contemplating the beauty of the natural world and considering the corporality of the medium. Sultan’s signature use of industrial materials and minimalist shapes paired with vivid color and delicate, precise line drawings creates a lyrical balance between the easily recognizable imagery of the natural world and the anonymity of abstraction. Rough textures tense up against organic subjects; thus the viewer accesses the sublime position of swaying between sensing, feeling, and thinking.

DONALD SULTAN (b. 1951) emerged in the 1970s as part of the “New Image” movement. Known internationally, he elevates the still-life tradition through the deconstruction of subjects into basic forms and the use of industrial materials. Weighty and structured, Sultan’s paintings are simultaneously abstract and representational; his imagery is immediately recognizable but resists empiricism through stark forms edging toward abstraction. His work has been exhibited worldwide in solo and group exhibitions at Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; LACMA, Los Angeles; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and many others. His work is included in public and private collections among them Art Institute of Chicago; British Museum; Dallas Museum of Fine Arts; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.


March 16
2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
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McClain Gallery
2242 Richmond Ave.
Houston, TX 77098 United States
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(713) 520-9988
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