Red Tondo

Red Tondo
Ilya Bolotowsky

Artist Biography
Acquisition Number: 80.29.1
Medium: Silkscreen on paper
Size: 22 1/8" x 29 5/8"
Date: 1979
Credit: Gift of Mr. Thomas Rhodes

Born in Russia, Ilya Bolotowsky lived through World War I and the Russian Revolution, then fled to the United States while still a teenager. “After I went through a lot of violent historical upheavals in my early life, I came to prefer a search for an ideal harmony and order,” he said. His work, a search for order through visual expression, embraced Cubism and Geometric Abstraction and was much influenced by Dutch painter Piet Mondrian. Bolotowsky was one of the founding members of the American Abstract Artists, a cooperative formed to promote the interests of abstract painters and to increase understanding between themselves and the public. It was during this period that Bolotowsky came under the influence of Mondrian and the principles of Neoplasticism, a movement that advocated for ideal order in the visual arts. Bolotowsky adopted Mondrian’s use of horizontal and vertical geometric pattern alongside a palette restricted to primary colors and neutrals. At the University of Wyoming, where Bolotowsky taught after serving in the Army Air Corps during World War II, Bolotowsky met a farmer who gave him several wagon wheels. He stretched canvas over the wheels’ rims and called these round paintings tondos, in reference to the circular paintings of Raphael. For the next twenty years, Bolotowsky experimented with the optical effects posed by this round format. Round compositions are notoriously hard to master, because the eye is led around in ways that does not anchor it to a focal point as easily as compositions on rectangular formats.