Ilya Bolotowsky

Russian/American, 1907-1981  Biography

Ilya Bolotowsky was a founding member of the American Abstract Artists. A Russian immigrant to New York in 1923, Bolotowsky studied at the National Academy of Design between 1924 and 1930. He then worked for several years as a textile designer and taught art in settlement houses. By 1932, he had saved enough money so that, combined with a small scholarship, he was able to spend ten months in Europe- primarily Italy, Germany, Denmark, and England, with a few weeks in Paris.

In 1934, he worked for the Public Works of Art Project, a pilot program of federal support that paved the way for the WPA-FAP in 1935. When Gertrude Greene mentioned that Burgoyne Diller was heading up a WPA mural project that would use abstract artists, Bolotowsky submitted sketches. Diller arranged Bolotowsky's transfer from the WPA teaching project, and Bolotowsky set to work on a mural design for the Williamsburg housing project, whose architect, William Lescaze, was sympathetic to abstraction. 

In his abstract compositions of the mid 1930s, Bolotowsky gave free rein to a variety of stylistic approaches. He encountered the work of both Miró and Mondrian in 1933, and by 1936 introduced a Mondrianesque grid pattern as the framework for playful biomorphic forms and rectangular planes of unmodulated color.

During World War II, Bolotowsky served in the Army Air Corps. After his discharge, he replaced Joseph Albers for two years at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. From 1948 to 1957, he taught at the University of Wyoming and at Brooklyn College. From 1957 to 1965, he was Professor of Art at State Teacher's College in New Paltz, New York, and from 1965 until 1971, he taught at the University of Wisconsin in Whitewater. At various times, he also held short-term or adjunct positions at Hunter College in New York, the University of New Mexico, and Queens College.

Before the war, Bolotowsky had exhibited in a variety of group exhibitions, including the Museum of Modern Art's New Horizons in American Art in 1936 and in both the second and third annual shows of The Ten, in 1936 and 1937. In 1946, after his return, his paintings began to receive wide attention. He had solo exhibitions at J.B. Neumann's New Art Circle and at The Pinacotheca gallery. In 1954, he joined Grace Borgenicht's gallery, where he showed biennially into the 1970s. 

Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Alaska
Ball State University Museum of Art, Muncie, Indiana
Boca Raton Museum of Art, Florida
Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio
Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh/Carnegie Institute, Pennsylvania
Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia
Dallas Museum of Art, Texas
Denver Art Museum, Colorado
Figge Art Museum, Davenport, Iowa
Flint Institute of Arts, Michigan
Godwin-Ternbach Museum, Queens College, CUNY, New York
Greenville County Museum of Art, South Carolina
Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas, Austin
Kresge Art Museum, Michigan State University, East Lansing
Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, Utica, New York
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C.
Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, New York
New Jersey State Museum, Trenton
North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania
Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona
Print Club of Albany, New York
Robert Hull Fleming Museum, Burlington, Vermont
Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts
San Diego Museum of Art, California
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California
Sheldon Museum of Art, Lincoln, Nebraska
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, New York
Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, Pennsylvania
The Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York
The Canton Museum of Art, Ohio
The Empire State Plaza Art Collection, Albany, New York
The Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, Norman, Oklahoma
The Grace Museum, Abilene, Texas
The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
The Newark Museum, New Jersey
The Phillips Collection, Phillips Memorial Gallery, Washington, D.C.
The Tang Teaching Museum And Art Gallery, Saratoga Springs, New York
The Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio
The University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor
University of Wyoming Art Museum, Laramie
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut