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The Artists

James Aponovich
Jules Olitski

James Aponovich, born in Nashua, New Hampshire in 1948, started painting in his early twenties as a student at the University of New Hampshire. He began his career as a portraitist and figure painter. Since the early 1980s, he has been known for his elaborate still life compositions. His still-life paintings reflect his work from real objects in the studio, from nature and from his imagination. As he begins a painting, he deals with the issues of organizing relationships between areas on the canvas and determining the geometric proportions to be used. Still Life with Chocolates, 1984, provides a strong example of Aponovich’s plan for delineating desired geometric shapes and grouping diverse objects along strong vertical and horizontal axes. The completed painting takes shape as the blocked out areas are transformed into the familiar objects, creating “a microcosm of order and harmony.” Form, texture and pattern compete for attention, yet each object is depicted with a clarity that enables it to hold its own. The objects in Still Life with Chocolates, as well as its vertical format, reflect the baroque compositions of seventeenth century Dutch still-life painters.

In contrast to the Dutch who included objects meant to convey a message in their still life paintings, Aponovich chooses his subjects only to stimulate the imagination and please the eye. The objects often bear little relation to one another, which has led some critics to categorize his work as surrealist. The surrealist ‘look’ is further conveyed through the flatness of the composition, placing subjects close to the picture plane, dismissing perspective and providing an altered perception of reality. Aponovich is a meticulous and precise draftsman who displays careful attention to detail and vibrant use of color.

Born in Russia in 1922, Jules Olitski was one year old when he arrived in the United States with his mother and grandmother. He received extensive formal training, studying at some of the most prestigious academies in New York and Paris. He was influenced by museum visits, as well as by work by Henri Matisse, Jean Dubuffet and other contemporary European artists. His early, semi-abstract images evolved into compositions built around free, abstract, central areas of color, which were, in turn, followed by monochromatic sprayed ‘color field’ paintings that were vast expanses of color. Olitski experimented with color through spray application and in 1964 he made his first ‘spray’ painting. He was widely praised for both the innovation and beauty of his canvases, but by the early 1970s his work had begun to fall out of favor with New York critics. In the years that followed, he remained popular with collectors, but was increasingly ignored by the press. Olitski has persevered and continued to explore his own direction, experimenting with different techniques including poured dye, airbrush, and spray paint droplets to create areas of color on the canvas. Since the mid-1990s, he has been engaged in a series of landscape paintings based on the scenery near his home on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire.

As one of the leading American Abstract Expressionists, Olitski’s lasting contribution has been his radical attempt at making art out of nothing but color. His work Shoot, painted in 1965 is an early example of Olitski’s spray-painting technique. Consisting of misty veils of pinks, oranges and blues, the painting seems almost a three-dimensional rendering of brilliantly-colored fog were it not for the vertical bands of green and red that run alongside the left side of the canvas. The red and green bands call attention to the boundaries of the canvas, reminding the viewer that the painting is mostly flat, that no illusion is intended, and that color is the first and only subject. The title of the painting provides no direct correlation to the painting and is seemingly unimportant, as was typical with Olitski’s work.

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James Aponovich, Still Life with Chocolates, 1984
James Aponovich, Still Life with Chocolates, 1984
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Jules Olitski, Shoot, 1965
Jules Olitski, Shoot, 1965





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