Richard Kattman talks about Jules Olitski’s “Green Hands”

Jules Olitski’s Green Hands, on view through May 5, 2013 at the Davis Museum, Wellesley MA

As an artist and abstract painter, a Spring journey to the Davis Museum at
Wellesley College to see “April Brief: Notes from the Color Field” afforded no
less than Enlightenment.

Green Hands, the dominant artwork in the exhibit, by Russian born artist
Jules Olitski, is an astonishing, ebullient, immense, elegant, surprisingly simple,
and complex canvas. Daringly beautiful, overwhelming, psychological,
searching, and masterfully composed, it is painting of the highest physical
objectness, and intellectual order.

Created in 1969 (Vietnam, Woodstock, The Godfather, Chappaquidick,
Waiting for Godot), the painting is representative of Color Field’s most
advanced abstraction practiced by Helen Frankenthaler, Jack Bush, Mark
Rothko, and Barnett Newman.

Rafael Mineo, Architect of the Davis Museum, stated in 1993: “Therefore, I
very much wanted the Museum to be understood as a treasury, a treasury that
speaks about the lives of the people who received their education here”. 

To arrive at Olitski’s Green Hands requires endurance, wonder, and an ever
upward spiritual climb through the “Treasury” to end in a vast, white, skylight
flooded room at the upper recesses of a magic place, situated above the campus
treetops, viewing a serene lake, with Gothic architecture and wilderness

Green Hands is a grandiose work by any sense of the imagination, by sheer
scale alone, as a golden ratio 2:1 canvas measuring nine feet high and seventeen
feet long. Upon arrival, a sense of presence of the artist and the work is
immediate and all consuming.

But the Colors! The colors are opulent, staggering to the senses, full, rich,
exotic, lush, radiant, glowing, layered, and constantly shifting, evaporating, ever
changing. A grand green-yellow field fills the center and explodes outward to
the distant edges, modulated there by softened pale cobalt blues and violets at
opposite corners, up and down, all dissolving before the eye. The central marks
of spray reveal a dense overall pattern of lovely saturated permanent greens
underlain with riotous cadmium yellow. The right hand end moderates to sea
green and viridian as the natural light bounces red violet on the adjacent white

The field is endless yet self-contained, demanding meditation, heightened visual
awareness, quietness and peace.

It is difficult to imagine controlling the execution of the work for its airport
hangar dimensions. Green Hands must have been painted on the floor but is
viewed on the wall! Is this Spring green or grass green? But no, this is paint! A
Painter’s Paint and nothing more than Paint Paint Paint! Harmony and balance
are ever present. Stability challenges the senses.

Stepping back to take in the entire composition, the field is discovered to be
subtly enclosed at the edges by hand drawn, meandering, painted thin blue,
umber, and violet lines. A burst of raw sienna as perhaps Sun occurs in the
upper left solar system. The trails define the boundaries and bounce the
composition back to its origins the center, in a constantly moving, back and
forth, round and round, spiraling adventure. “Green Hands” glows from within
from great depths on a flat surface.

“What does it mean”, you ask? The answer lies in the Art.
Jules Olitski is a modernist artist with classical training, practicing in the
Renaissance tradition, applying twenty-first century ideas to the age- old
traditions of painting. 

Surface, depth, edge, drawing, color, idea, Paint.

-Richard Kattman

And now a bit about Richard Kattman-

An award-winning artist, landscape architect, and photographer from Holliston, Richard bases his abstract acrylic paintings on landscape and the intuitive, emotive mind. Along with brilliant color, the sheer size of his paintings (many are over 6 ft. wide) is impressive. See more of Richard's work at 

Richard Kattman's exhibit, Painted Abstracts, at Fountain Street Fine Art, Framingham MA, in March, 2013