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Artist Donald Sultan’s ’Soot & Shine’ Debuts In Chelsea

Originally Posted: February 22, 2011

Tony Vargas

Artist Donald Sultan. (Vargas)

New York City - It was hardly surprising that the usual Chelsea gallery first-nighters were out numbered by the legions of Sag Harbor artist Donald Sultan's fans and friends from the East End. East Hampton artist David Gamble, fresh from his regular commute to New Orleans quipped," I feel like I'm in the Hamptons," after noting so many familiar faces. But then Sultan has always been a much admired and well liked figure on the Hamptons art scene, indeed, around the world.

"Soot and Shine," an exhibition of new works by Sultan, is his sixth solo show at the prestigious Mary Ryan Gallery and it is definitely a winner. The collection is comprised of eight new paintings and two drawings that highlight the versatility, sensuality and dramatic elegance of black. In Sultan's hands black takes on many dimensions.

Trumpet vines with their enormous blooms swirl voluptuously across masonite board spilling over the edges and giving a deckled effect. Interestingly, his models came not from nature but from the floral patterns on cheap Chinese lanterns. Working with such untraditional artistic materials such as enamel, tar and vinyl tiles, Sultan pushes the boundaries of painting as he virtually sculpts the painting into pictures that are minimal but opulently rich.

Longtime admirers and fellow Sag Harbor artists Andrew Hart Adler and Carolyn Beegan were very enthusiastic about the new work. Adler, who is collaborating with Beegan, on a new series of mixed media works which they will soon present told us, "Interestingly, Donald and I were both in the graduating class of '73 at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill but our paths had not crossed. In the late 1970s, I was introduced to his work and have followed his career since then."

"LanternFlowers-Aqua" by Donald Sultan.

A breathless Terrie Sultan, Executive Director of the Parrish Art Museum and sister of the artist arrived with her husband artist and writer Christopher French and promptly rushed to her sibling to explain her delay, "People were stopping me at the door telling me how wonderful your show was," she exclaimed proudly.

When we caught up with Ms. Sultan, she said she had a picture she wanted us to see and reached into her purse for her cell phone, she flashed us a topography shot. Like a new mother, she smiled and said, "That's the Google Earth photo of our new museum in Water Mill." Ms. Sultan assured us that despite needing to raise in excess of $9 million, the new Parrish Art Museum will be open by summer 2012.

Also on hand for the openings were artists John Torreano and Eric Fischl, author Michael Gross and his wife fashion designer Barbara Hodes.

Born in Asheville, NC, Sultan lives and works in New York City and Sag Harbor. After receiving his BFA from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, he attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he earned his MFA. In 2010 Sultan received the distinguished North Carolina Award, the highest honor awarded by the state. He has exhibited all over the world, including solo exhibitions at the Fort Worth Museum of Art, TX, the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art, CA, the Museum of Modern Art, NY and most recently "Donald Sultan: the First Decade," at the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center, OH.
His art is in the permanent collections of over 50 institutions, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Tate Gallery, London. In 2008 Donald Sultan, The Theater of the Object, a monograph, was published by the Vendome Press, New York, which includes essays by Carter Radcliff and John B. Ravenal.

"Soot & Shine" will be on view until April 9, 2011 at Mary Ryan Gallery, 527 West 26th Street, New York City. Call 212-397-0669 for Gallery hours and more information.


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