Asymmetric Diamond, 1972
Acrylic on canvas
60 x 60 inches
Signed and dated lower right
Born in Russia, Ilya Bolotowsky came to the United States at the age of sixteen, settling with his family in New York. After briefly studying law, he enrolled at the National Academy of Design. After six years of study, he received a scholarship to travel to Europe, spending a year abroad between Paris, Italy, Germany, Denmark and England. In Paris, he was particularly taken by the Cubist works of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. When he returned to New York, he encountered even more modern European painting styles at progressive galleries such as Albert E. Gallatin’s collection at New York University. Bolotowsky’s early abstract style was most clearly realized in the large murals he designed for the WPA. His first design was located at the Williamsburg Housing Project, a joint project with fellow abstract artists Balcomb Greene, Paul Kelpe and Albert Swinden in 1936. The works were the first non-objective public murals designed in the United States. The momentum of this project encouraged Bolotowsky, together with other like-minded artists, to form the American Abstract Artists group, an organization that supported abstraction when it was often met with strong critical resistance.
After World War II, Bolotowsky was invited to replace former Bauhaus instructor Josef Albers at Black Mountain College, a teaching position he held for two years. He continued to teach around the country and during this time his style was further refined to reflect the pure geometric abstraction of Piet Mondrian, who had moved to New York in 1940.
Asymmetric Diamond, 1972 reflects the style and philosophy of Neo-Plasticism, a term coined by Mondrian and used by other artists of the De Stijl movement. The abstract style is characterized by vertical and horizontal lines and primary colors. Unlike Mondrian, Bolotowsky did not limit his palette to primary colors; he also used bright jewel tones and various shades in his dynamic compositions. Bolotowsky preferred the style for its harmony, balance, and order—qualities he felt that his life of upheaval lacked. The asymmetry of this work, its bold colors, and atypical canvas shape affirms Bolotowksy’s belief that paintings should be “dynamic” and not “static.” Bolotowsky received his first solo museum exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in 1974 where his diamond, tondo, and ellipse-shaped canvases received high acclaim.