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Donald Sultan

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Donald Sultan (b. 1951) is a leading contemporary artist who first rose to prominence in the late 1970s as part of the “New Image” movement. He is known for his monumental paintings that characteristically employ industrial materials, including tar, spackle, and enamel, to render basic geometric and organic elements with a formal minimalism that is both weighty and structured. Sultan is known for his still-life imagery as well as his “Disaster” paintings that focused on themes of industry, war, and man-made catastrophes. Throughout his career, he has revisited and reinvented the still-life with images of lemons, poppies, playing cards, fruits and flowers, and other objects. Interested in contrast, he explores such dichotomies as beauty and roughness, nature and artificiality, and realism and abstraction.

Drawing and printmaking have been an important part of Sultan’s practice since the 1970’s. Major print projects include his “Black Lemons” aquatint portfolio, which were printed in 1987 and exhibited at MoMA a year later. In 1999, he collaborated with David Mamet on his book, Bar Mitzvah, for which he did the drawings. In 2002, Sultan was invited to launch the Visiting Artists Programme at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute, where he created ambitious woodcut and intaglio prints. Other important prints include the silkscreens Fruits and Flowers I, II, III; Green Apples with master printer Ken Tyler; Red Roses and Egg; the Smoke Rings series; The Brutal Unsentimental Landscape series, and the 12 Colors portfolio, marked by the complex nature of the projects.

Born in Asheville, NC, Sultan studied at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and later received his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has since received honorary doctorate degrees from the Corcoran School of Art in Washington D.C., the New York Academy of Art and the University of North Carolina. In 2010, Sultan was awarded the North Carolina Award, the highest award a state can bestow upon a civilian. Sultan moved to New York City in 1975.

The Museum of Modern Art, Fort Worth organized in 2016 “Disaster Paintings” which traveled to the Lowe Museum, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the North Carolina Museum of Art and the Sheldon Museum of Art. Further, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art organized “Donald Sultan: In the Still-Life Tradition,” which traveled to Corcoran Gallery of Art, DC; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO; Polk Museum of Art, FL; and Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, AZ, in 2000.

In 2019, RYAN LEE Gallery hosted an exhibition entitled Donald Sultan: Mimosa, Paintings and Drawings. Sultan has been included in solo and group exhibitions at the British Museum, London (2017), Cleveland Museum of Art (2015), Gyeongnam Art Museum (2011), Virginia Museum of Fine Art (2010), Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati (2009) and the Museum of Modern Art (1988). Sultan’s first solo exhibition was mounted in 1977 at Artists Space in New York.

Mary Ryan Gallery has held solo exhibitions of Sultan’s prints in 1996, 2000, 2003, 2007, 2008 and 2011.

Important publications include Donald Sultan by Ian Dunlop and Lynne Warren, which accompanied his solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1987); Donald Sultan: A Print Retrospective by Barry Walker (1992); Donald Sultan: In the Still-Life Tradition by David Mamet and Steven Henry Madoff (2000); and Donald Sultan: Theater of the Object by Carter Ratcliff (2008), Donald Sultan: The Disaster Paintings by Gregory A. Dobie (2016).

Sultan’s work is in numerous prominent museum collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, IL; Cincinnati Art Museum, OH; Cleveland Art Museum, OH; Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, TX; Detroit Institute of Arts, MI; Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Ludwig Museum, Budapest; Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; Museum of Modern Art, NY; Neuberger Museum at SUNY-Purchase, NY; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; Singapore Museum of Art; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY; Tate Gallery, London; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN and the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY.

Sultan’s paintings and original works are represented by RYAN LEE Gallery, New York.
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