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Becoming Ida Kohlmeyer

Paintings and Drawings 1960 - 1976 in collaboration with the family of Ida Kohlmeyer

In conjunction with Art for Arts' Sake, signaling the beginning of the 2004-05 cultural season in New Orleans, The Ogden Museum of Southern Art is pleased to present the exhibition Becoming Ida Kohlmeyer: Paintings and Drawings 1960 - 1976. The exhibition, which includes 12 of the artist's works, offers a specific focus on the New Orleans-born artist during an important transitional period in her career.

This is one of four (4) new exhibitions premeiring in the Museum on Saturday, October 2, 2004. The exhibition will remain on display through December, 2004.

Kohlmeyer began painting while taking art courses at Newcomb College in 1950, some 18 years after receiving her bachelor's degree there in 1933. Encouraged by her teacher Pat Trivigno, Kohlmeyer began painting and drawing seriously. After graduating in 1956 she immediately enrolled in Hans Hoffman's school in Provincetown Massachusetts where she absorbed the tenets of abstract modernist painting. Hoffman, himself a disciple of the abstract artist Kandinsky, carried forward the belief that painting was a spiritual activity driven by an inner reality rather than the visible world. The ideas of Hoffman were given a more palpable reality when Mark Rothko came to New Orleans, in 1957 as a Visiting Artist at Tulane University. While in New Orleans, Rothko lived in the Rittenberg Family home and used the garage as a studio. His abstract rectangular fields of color became a dominant influence on Kohlmeyer in the late 1950s.

Kohlmeyer had rapidly assimilated the styles of Realism, Regionalism, Color Field painting and gestural abstraction, mirroring the evolution that the artists of the New York School had developed from the 1930s through the late 1950s. The 1960s and early 1970s saw her moving out from under the modernist influences and searching for a personal style of intuitively derived forms that mirror the unconscious mind. First, we see the color fields invaded by gestural marks both geometric and biomorphic. In the mid-sixties the color-fields give way to an open neutral canvas with minimal effects, working a tension between the structural and the emotional qualities of abstract painting.

The geometric paintings in 1968 intensify this tension locking bands of bright mystical color into bisymmetrical compound structures based on clearly detailed organic forms. Contrary to her earlier abstract work grounded in intuition, the works from 1967-1969 were, in the artist's own words "were done with deliberation and aforethought." The geometric paintings were the transitional catharsis that set the stage for her later and more mature work.

This exhibition was developed in collaboration between The Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the Ida and Hugh Kohlmeyer Foundation, JoEllen and Raoul Bezou, Jane and Henry Lowentritt and Arthur Roger Gallery and was designed to complement the retrospective of her work to be displayed at Tulane University's Newcomb Gallery.

The Museum is also home to the Ida Kohlmeyer Study Center. This was made possible through the generous gift by Kohlmeyer's daughters, Jo Ellen Bezou and Jane Lowentritt. The gift to the museum includes 12 paintings and the artist's vast archival collection, with over 26,000 objects including artwork, sculpture, studies, travel journals, slides, and publications. The Center will be a part of the museum's Institute for the Advancement of Southern Art and Culture.

"This gift will give the museum the opportunity to celebrate a nationally-known New Orleans' artist's life and work," says Dr. J. Richard Gruber, the museum's director. "And, in terms of the collection and The Ogden Museum's mission, it will take another significant artist from the South and place her art and career in the same pantheon as renowned American artists from other regions."

"This will be a wonderful opportunity to have my mother's work in a major institution that will make these archival materials available on a national and international level, keeping her spirit and work alive," says Lowentritt.

Kohlmeyer's most familiar works locally include the "Acquatic Colonnade," a series of monumental metal sculptures which line Woldenberg Park by the Audubon Nature Institute's Aquarium of the Americas. Another familiar public work, "Krewe of Poydras," stands in the 1500 block of Poydras Street across from the Louisiana Superdome and has become a landmark meeting place on the busy thoroughfare.