Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, Ilya Bolotowsky immigrated with his family to New York City in 1923, and the following year began studying at the National Academy of Design. He had his first one-man-show at G.R.D. Studios in 1930. Within the decade, he would become a member of "The Ten," a group of artists including Mark Rothko and Adolph Gottlieb who explored the use of abstraction for expressive purposes. Heavily influenced by the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, whose work he first saw in 1933, Bolotowsky was initially inspired by Cubism and De Stijl, but evolved throughout his career to give way to an austere brand of geometric abstraction based upon line, shape, and color. In 1937, he became a founding member of the American Abstract Artists, who rejected American Scene painting. Bolotowsky turned gradually toward a clear and precise style reliant upon sharply defined linear structures, which varied in shape over the course of his career. His aim was to generate order through geometric abstraction and equilibrium. As the artist himself noted:
"Nowadays, when paintings torture the retina, when music gradually destroys the eardrum, there must, all the more, be a need for an art that searches for new ways to achieve harmony and equilibrium."
—Ilya Bolotowsky, 1974
His work espouses the aesthetic principles of Neo-Plasticism, the style for which he became a well-known arbiter. Bolotowsky's diamond-shaped canvases have brought results as high as $53,000 at auction to date.
Blue Horizontal is a testament to Bolotowsky’s belief that compositional harmony was the result of a precise balance between pure primary color and pristine geometry. With its lack of depth, elimination of representational forms, and carefully balanced tonality, this work espouses the aesthetic principles of Neo-Plasticism, the style for which Bolotowsky became a well-known arbiter. In his own words, the artist strove for “an essence of harmony remote from any empathy,” eschewing the automatism favored by the Abstract Expressionists in favor of an indisputable perfection of form. Line and color are paramount in this work: thin bands of blue and black and balance complimentaries of white and of yellow, while perpendicular lines echo the right angles of the panel itself. Bolotowsky was initially inspired by Cubism and De Stijl but evolved throughout his career to give way to an austere brand of geometric abstraction based upon line, shape, and color. His retrospective was held at the Guggenheim in 1974, just a few short years after this piece was painted.
Grace Borgenicht Gallery, New York
Sotheby's New York, 15 - 16 February 1989, Lot 77
Acquired at the above sale by the previous owner