As such, these paintings mark a transition, and the most heartening aspect of this show is its way of documenting the artist’s evolution, from perhaps a little bit tentative to masterful. All the paintings depict one or two large circles, floating upon fields of contrasting colors, and frequently with smaller circles inside the larger ones. Initially, the circles are irregular, with edges composed of small flat or slightly-curved sides, strung together. These earlier canvases are also completely covered with paint, creating the impression that the primer was used (whether or not it actually was is not clear to me, but the impression is of opacity not transparency). Gradually, the circles become more smoothly rounded & regular, while the last two paintings in the sequence, both dated 1963, show small areas of raw canvas: the paint has been stained in (without primer) – following a practice that Louis, Noland and Frankenthaler had been using for some time. These latest paintings look like the works from the early ‘60s that Olitski is known for. In fact, one, “Patutsky Passion,” built around a good-sized black circle embraced by an arc of bright red, is a kissing cousin to “The Prince Patutsky–Red,” which appears on the jacket front of “Clement Greenberg: A Critic’s Collection.” Some of the earlier paintings in the show are also powerful, including “Medusa Pleasure” (1962) and especially “Fair Charlotte” (1961), which has delightfully offbeat color combinations (golden field, with circles in deep blue, purple, pink, black and green).
A larger Olitski show, covering a broader period in his career, is circulating in 4 out-of-town museums. For details, see "Events."