Architectural Variation

  • Ilya Bolotowsky, Architectural Variation, 1949, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Patricia and Phillip Frost, 1986.92.4

The solemn cadence of Architectural Variation comes from the relationships among blocks of muted color. Bolotowsky had the idea, he said, of creating a counterpoint of colors,” that would work together like one of Johann Sebastian Bach’s contrapuntal motifs. The painting has the order and regularity of an urban plan seen from above, in which buildings and streets are schematically aligned. Bolotowsky could not resist a personal touch — he signed the lower right edge and, like a spot of graffiti, tagged” the upper left edge with brushy strokes of blue.

Modern Masters: Midcentury Abstraction from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2008

The order and regularity of buildings and bridges inspired Ilya Bolotowsky to compose abstract paintings from different colored rectangles. He believed that colors created tension on the surface of the canvas by pulling back and forth,” and the large white rectangle of Architectural Variation creates an anchor for the vibrant blocks, some of which appear closer to us than others. Bolotowsky used only vertical and horizontal lines, feeling that diagonal lines created too much depth within the image. He worked intuitively, dividing the canvas into different proportions and then allowing each section to dictate” what color it should be. (Bolotowsky, interviewed by Svendsen and Poser, Ilya Bolotowsky, 1974)

Architecture and art should be very much united.” Bolotowsky, interviewed by Svendsen and Poser, Ilya Bolotowsky, 1974

Architectural Variation
2030 in. (50.876.2 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of Patricia and Phillip Frost

Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • Abstract – geometric
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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