Before that headline sends your expectations sky-high, know this: The critic Clement Greenberg, when he deemed Jules Olitski “the best painter alive,” was talking about more than just composition. Olitski, who died in 2007, was a master of innovative technique, using leaf blowers, spray guns and other unusual tools to make his art throughout his nearly 60-year career.
Of course, he had his detractors: Critic Lucy Lippard called Olitski’s work “visual muzak.” But it’s impossible to know which camp you fall into until you see one of his paintings in person, because no photograph or reproduction can ever fully capture the texture and heft of his paint (our gallery, above, is a good preview and a valiant attempt).
Luckily, you have two chances: His small-scale works are on display in ”Jules Olitski on an Intimate Scale” at George Washington University’s Luther Brady Art Gallery, and his larger works make up “Revelation,” a traveling show that’s now at American University’s Katzen Art Gallery. Check out my review of the AU show here.