Donald Sultan: The Disaster Paintings

Polish Landscape Polish Landscape
Polish Landscape II Jan 5 1990 (Auschwitz), 1990
Latex paint and tar on tile mounted on four Masonite panels
96 x 96 inches. Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, N.Y.
Gift of The Broad Art Foundation, 2012.11.4 © Donald Sultan
September 29 – December 23, 2016

A critically important series in the oeuvre of American painter, sculptor, and printmaker Donald Sultan, The Disaster Paintings were created between 1984 and 1990. These works feature imposing, man-made structures, whose industrial qualities are reinforced by Sultan’s preferred media, Masonite tiles and tar. The paintings’ resulting sense of robust permanence is offset by the catastrophes Sultan includes therein, which provoke a jarring sense of fragility, impermanence, and transience. Such unexpected juxtapositions are privileged by the artist’s process itself, which merges the industrial materials of Minimalism with representational painting, stylistically combining figuration and abstraction and making simultaneous reference to high and low culture. Painted on a large scale (the majority of the works in this series measure 8’ x 8’), The Disaster Paintings embody great physicality in their process, subject matter, and finished form. They also reify the modern experience of industrialized societies with images of fire, accidents, and industrial mishaps, daring us to forget that calamities and adversity are woven into the very fabric of our existence. It is a timely moment in history to reconsider and reassess The Disaster Paintings.

This exhibition includes 11 signature paintings from The Disaster Paintings series. Donald Sultan: The Disaster Paintings is organized by the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

Generous support for this exhibition is provided by the Robert Lehman Foundation, Inc