Donald Sultan, Red, May 10, 2010, screenprint, signed and numbered 37/50; Collectors Circle purchase 2014.
Guest Writer: Todd Giles, PhD, Associate Professor of English at MSU Texas
A painter, printmaker, and sculptor, American artist Donald Sultan is best known for his large still-life paintings and his use of industrial materials which harken back to the aluminum, bricks, high-gloss spray paints and Plexiglas of his Minimalist predecessors. Sultan’s interest in industrial materials such as vinyl tile, tar, and spackle, stem from his childhood days hanging out in his father’s North Carolina tire factory in the 1950s. Sultan came into his own as an artist in New York City in the late 1970s as part of the New Image movement, a resurgence of interest in painting in reaction to the Minimalism of the 1960s.
Sultan’s still-lifes, including Red, May 10, 2010, a silkscreen donated to the WFMA by the Collectors Circle in 2014, are simultaneously representational and abstract. Red, May 10, 2010 is part of Sultan’s “Lantern Flower” series, which includes similar silkscreens in coral-on-black and white-on-black versions, as well as a series of six large monotone aluminum sculptures of the flowers themselves, as if cut away from their black backgrounds. As with many post-World War II artists, seriality is an important aspect of Sultan’s output. Indeed, the “Lantern Flower” series can be read as in dialogue with Andy Warhol’s flower silkscreens of the 1960s in that they are simple, flat, limited-palate close-ups that give equal emphasis to both positive and negative space. Red, May 10, 2010, though, is different from Warhol’s flower silkscreens in that Sultan includes black flocking around the sprig of flowers, adding a softer, more tactile feel against the glossy red of the flowers. The flocking also adds to the sense of the artwork’s organicism, as its edges are fluid and wavy.
Red, May 10, 2012 from the Permanent Collection of the Wichita Falls Museum of Art at MSU Texas