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Donald Sultan's first U.K retrospective opens at Huxley-Parlour Gallery
Gold and Black Flower, 1 September, 1998, Latex, gold leaf and charcoal on paper, 9.5 x 27 inches © the artist, Courtesy Huxley-Parlour Gallery.

LONDON.- The acclaimed American figurative painter Donald Sultan is receiving his first U.K retrospective at Huxley-Parlour Gallery, London.

Arranged over two floors, the exhibition is comprised of 17 works produced between 1977 and 2019 and features three canvasses from his seminal Disaster Paintings series. Sultan has not shown in London in 10 years, so this exhibition is timely, providing an opportunity to re-evaluate his work and position him within the canon of post-war Contemporary Art.

Sultan is best known for his large-scale paintings produced using a range of industrial and non-art materials, including tar, latex and rubber, and for his graphic and restrained investigations of form. The exhibition seeks to reassert Sultan’s status as a pivotal figure in the reinvention of painting that occurred in New York in the 1980s, and also in the reestablishment of figuration in contemporary painting.

The exhibition includes early smaller-scale experiments in tar, tile and Masonite from the 1970s, as well as works in charcoal from the artist’s Black Lemons series. These were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1988 and preceded an in-depth investigation into the reduction of form.

Sultan’s Disaster Paintings were created over nearly a decade during the 1980s. Each is inspired by disastrous industrial or urban events, such as warehouse fires or freight train derailments, with the imagery based on photographs he found in daily newspapers.

When they were shown at the Smithsonian Museum in 2017, Sultan observed: ‘The series speaks to the impermanence of all things. The largest cities, the biggest structures, the most powerful empires—everything dies. Man is inherently self-destructive, and whatever is built will eventually be destroyed... That’s what the works talk about: life and death.’

New works are being presented in the downstairs gallery are taken from subsequent series that reinvent the genre of still life, deconstructing fruits and flowers into their basic forms.

Says Giles Huxley-Parlour, gallery director: ‘The New York art scene of the 1980s gave rise to many great talents, and the paintings in this exhibition reveal Donald Sultan to be one of the key figures of that period. The featured works reveal a painter of vital, unerring energy and unique talent. It is an honour to be able to bring his work together for this timely retrospective.’

Donald Sultan (b. 1951, North Carolina) trained at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, he now lives and works in New York City. Since his first solo exhibition in 1977, Sultan has exhibited his work internationally and they are now held in the permanent collections of over 50 major international museums including Museum of Modern Art, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, the Metropolitan Museum, New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, the Reina Sofia in Madrid, the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, and Tate Modern, London.

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