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Altoon Sultan
Drawings and a Painting

10/10/20 - 11/7/20

Feuilleton is pleased to present a solo exhibition of the Vermont-based artist Altoon Sultan.


A formalist in the classical sense, Altoon Sultan is an artist who is interested in composition, color, spatial relationships, and light. No matter what she is depicting, whether it be Victorian architecture or modern agricultural landscapes, what she creates is deeply engaged in long standing discussions of form, line, representation and even abstraction. Having originally studied with Philip Pearlstein and Lois Dodd in the late 60s and early 70s, she comes from a tradition of realism whose interest in capturing perceived reality is second only to its stringent, vivid and precise interpretation of it. What is more, if she is working in the legacy of modernism, it has more to do with the likes of Ellsworth Kelly than any kind of Greenbergian purity, in that although she might insist on the primacy of form, what she portrays is thoroughly embedded in our shared, everyday reality.

For her exhibition at Feuilleton, Sultan presents a selection of works on paper and a single painting. In keeping with her interest in industrial farming and the production of food, the imagery in the work consists of details of agricultural implements and machinery. Isolated and zeroed-in upon, the portrayed details uncannily withdraw into illusory approximations of pure form, like so many lines, angles and circles. It is as if this essential, but often unseen production (farming) was, through Sultan’s small, tightly focused windows, at once revealed and, paradoxically, restored to the abstraction from whence it came. The works on paper are made using a technique inspired by a study of drapery on a gray ground by Durer. Sultan deploys a similar effect– darks with black ink, lights with white gouache– but on a single color toned paper whose colors vary, which helps elevate the notion of the study to its own distinct visual experience.

The single painting in the exhibition, Two Circles (2019) draws upon the same source for its imagery, but, being egg tempera on calfskin parchment, makes for a more saturated image, whose rich blues, greens and grays pop against the eye.

Altoon Sultan (b. 1948, Brooklyn, New York) lives and works in Groton, Vermont. Her first painting exhibitions, in 1971 and 1973, were at a co-op gallery in Soho, but soon she was represented by Marlborough Gallery, where she had her first show in 1977. She went on to have many solo shows in NYC, at Marlborough and at Tibor de Nagy and throughout the United States over more than 40 years. Altoon's work has been included in numerous group shows including many at museums such as the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Philbrook Museum of Art, the Hood Museum, the Fleming Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Art, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Awards include two National Endowment for the Arts grants, an Academy Award in Art from the American Academy, and a medal for painting from the National Academy of Design, where she was elected a member in 1995. Her work is in many museum collections, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York: the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; the Yale University Art Gallery; the Library of Congress; and the Fleming Museum of the University of Vermont. She is currently represented by McKenzie Fine Art, New York.

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