Ilya Bolotowsky, “Diamond III,” 1979. Silkscreen on paper, ed. 1881/225. Collection of Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. Gift of Robert F. Gold.
Ilya Bolotowsky (b. 1907 St. Petersburg, Russia – d. 1981 New York, NY)
Ilya Bolotowsky and his family immigrated to the United States in 1923. He was a strong believer in the power of abstract art and remained committed to it for his entire life. In 1936 Bolotowsky became a founding member of AAA (American Abstract Artists), a group of artists who organized in New York to advocate for American abstraction in the face of criticism and resistance. He was invited to teach at Black Mountain College in the fall of 1946 as a sabbatical replacement for Josef Albers. He stayed on the faculty through the spring of 1948 and became quite popular with painting students such as Joe Fiore, Leo Krikorian and Ken Noland. Some students contrasted Bolotowsky’s exuberant personal style with Albers’ more serious demeanor and preferred Bolotowsky. Of course Albers had many loyal supporters too, such as Ruth Asawa and Ray Johnson. Bolotowsky’s paintings, prints, and sculptures have a strong sense of color and a bold, hard-edged geometric style. After his time at BMC, Bolotwosky went on to teach at universities in New York, Wisconsin, and New Mexico. In 1974, he had a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.