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IDA KOHLMEYER

(1912-1997)

Abstract Expressionist Painter & Sculptor

by Kelly Brent

Ida Kohlmeyer was close friends with Mark Rothko and trained under Hans Hoffman as well as at Tulane University's Newcomb College Institute. She created Abstract Expressionist paintings during the early half of her career and eventually progressed into making paintings characterized by fluid lines and biomorphic shapes.




Table of Contents

I. BIOGRAPHY

Ida Rittenberg was born to Joseph and Rebecca Rittenberg in 1912. Her parents were Polish immigrants who established a pawnshop business in New Orleans, where Ida was born and raised. It was here that Ida studied English Literature at Tulane University and received her B.A. in 1933. Her interest in literature transformed into a fascination for the Latin American arts after she met and married her husband Hugh Kohlmeyer in 1934. Her growing desire to paint led Ida to attend the John McCrady Art School in 1947 and later take classes at Tulane's Newcomb College as a special student under the direction of Pat Trevigno. She graduated from Newcomb College and received her M.F.A in 1956. She went on to attend summer classes in Massachusetts where she was instructed by the great Hans Hoffman and was highly influenced by Abstract Expressionism. In 1959 she held her first solo exhibition at the Ruth White Gallery in New York. In 1966 Kohlmeyer was commissioned by the Peace Corps to make a painting as a gift for a retired Sergeant Shriver. She was also appointed the associate professor of art at the University of New Orleans in 1973, and in 1982 she was acclaimed as an honorary life member of National Women's Caucus for Art. As a painter and sculptor Kohlmeyer was well known and represented on both the west and east coasts. She died on January 29, 1997 at the age of eighty-five.

II. AN ANALYSIS OF THE ARTIST'S WORK

Pursuing her interest for art in her thirties, Ida Kohlmeyer went on to create brilliant works strongly influenced by the Abstract Expressionist style. Her oeuvre includes printmaking, drawings, paintings, and sculpture. Kohlmeyer struggled to break from the artistic influences of the first generation Abstract Expressionists such as Hoffman, Rothko, and Miro who she so strongly admired. Her personal style did not develop until the 1970s. This style is characterized by her use of grids to develop geometric abstractions produced through automated gestures. Her geometric “pictographs” were seen as series of signs that could only be read visually, whether or not this was her intention. During this period she was most well-known for her Clusters series. It wasn't until the 1980s that Kohlmeyer's style shifted to Synthesis painting, a less rigid, geometric style with a greater emphasis on color. The success of her compositions was heavily reliant on her drawn line and mark-making. Kohlmeyer did not begin sculpture until late in her life. Her sculptures were often made of Plexiglas, wood, and cloth. These works appear to be related to her paintings and are defined by their more “fluid” line, bright colors, and almost biomorphic shapes. Kohlmeyer relied on the elements of line and color to produce a large collection of brilliant works with an obvious influence of both Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism and a slightly personal touch.

III. CHRONOLOGY

  • 1912 Born Ida Rittenberg to parents Joseph and Rebecca Rittenberg in New Orleans.
  • 1925 Begins education at Isidore Newman Manual Training School.
  • 1933 Receives B.A. in English Literature from H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College of Tulane University.
  • 1934 Marries Hugh Kohlmeyer of New Orleans.
  • 1944 Gives birth to her first daughter, Jane Louise.
  • 1947 Attends classes at John McCrady art school in New Orleans.
  • 1947 Second daughter, Jo Ellen, is born.
  • 1950 Takes classes as a special student of Pat Trevigno at Tulane University's Newcomb College.
  • 1952 Begins work on her master's degree.
  • 1955 Included in Fifty - fourth Annual Spring Exhibition, Isaac Delgado Museum of Art.
  • 1956 Receives her M.F.A from Tulane University.
  • 1956 Spends summer attending classes under Hans Hoffman in Massachusetts.
  • 1956 Spends three months in Paris.
  • 1956 Joins Orleans Gallery Artists' cooperative.
  • 1957 Meets visiting artist Mark Rothko at Tulane University.
  • 1959 Solo exhibition at Ruth White Gallery in New York.
  • 1963 Begins to exhibit at the Henri Gallery, Washington, D.C.
  • 1963 Work included in the Twenty - Eighth Biennial of Contemporary American Painting, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; wins Ford Foundation Purchase prize.
  • 1963 Recieves purchase award for work included in Inter - American Annual Exhibition of Painting, Centro Artistico Barranquilla, Barranquilla, Colombia.
  • 1964 Leaves postion as painting teacher at Newcomb College after eight years.
  • 1965 Leaves Orleans Gallery cooperative to be represented by Luba Glade's Glade Gallery.
  • 1966 Commissioned by Peace Corps to make a painting as a retirement gift for the founding director.
  • 1967 Begins being represented by Heath Gallery, Atlanta.
  • 1969 Starts making plexiglas and wood sculptures, along with figurative paintings.
  • 1970 Leaves Glade Gallery to be represented by Galerie Simonne Stern, New Orleans for twelve years.
  • 1971 High Museum of Art, Atlanta, presents ten - year retrospective of her work organized by Whitney J. Engeran.
  • 1973 Appointed associate professor of art, University of New Orleans.
  • 1973 Begins to experiment with printmaking.
  • 1976 Solo exhibition at David Findlay Galleries in New York.
  • 1977 Transforms entrance of New Orleans Museum of Art into an environmental sculpture, Louisiana Prop Piece, for the exhibition Five from Louisiana.
  • 1977 Represented by Elaine Horwitch Gallery, Scottsdale, Arizona.
  • 1978 Named outstanding alumna of Newcomb College.
  • 1980 Receives National Women's Caucus for Art annual award for Outstanding Achievement in the Visual Arts.
  • 1981 Commissioned by James J. Coleman, Jr., Lee H. Schlesinger, and Equitable Life Assurance Society of the Untied States to create Krewe of Poydras five sculptures outside Equitable Life Assurance Society building in New Orleans.
  • 1982 Made honorary life member of National Women's Caucus for Art.
  • 1983 Krewe of Poydras is dedicated on January 14.
  • 1983 Change of New Orleans representation to Arthur Roger Gallery.
  • 1983 Begins being represented by Gimbel and Weitzenhoffer, New York, and Jerald Melberg Gallery, Charlotte, North Carolina.
  • 1990 Installation of two large public commissions in New Orleans: Aquatic Colonnade.
  • 1997 January 29, dies at age 85.
  • IV. AWARDS

  • 1963 Ford Foundation Purchase Prize, Twenty - Eighth Biennial of Contemporary America Painting, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
  • 1963 Purchase prize, Inter - American Annual Exhibition of Painting, Centro Artistico Barranquilla, Barranquilla, Colombia
  • 1980 Annual Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Visual Arts, National Women's Caucus for Art
  • 1982 Made honorary life member of National Women's Caucus for Art
  • V. EXHIBITIONS

    Solo Exhibitions:

  • 1957 Isaac Delgado Museum of Art (became New Orleans Museum of Art in 1971)
  • 1959 Ruth White Gallery
  • 1961 Ruth White Gallery
  • 1962 Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, GA
  • 1963 Henri Gallery, Washington, D.C.
  • 1964 Henri Gallery, Washington, D.C.
  • 1964 Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, AL
  • 1965 Ruth White Gallery
  • 1965 Glade Gallery, New Orleans
  • 1965 Municipal Art Gallery, Jackson, Mississippi
  • 1966 Isaac Delgado Museum of Art
  • 1966 Henri Gallery, Washington, D.C.
  • 1967 Isaac Delgado Museum of Art
  • 1967 Glade Gallery, New Orleans
  • 1967 Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, AL
  • 1967 Greenville County Museum of Art, Greenville, SC
  • 1967 Heath Gallery, Atlanta
  • 1968 Henri Gallery, Washington, D.C.
  • 1968 Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery and Sculpture Garden, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
  • 1968 Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX
  • 1968 Wofford Gallery, Spartanburg, SC
  • 1968 Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Fort Wayne, IN
  • 1969 Glade Gallery, New Orleans
  • 1969 Heath Gallery, Atlanta
  • 1971 Heath Gallery, Atlanta
  • 1971 High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia
  • 1971 Galerie Simonne Stern, New Orleans
  • 1972 Galerie Simonne Stern, New Orleans
  • 1973 Heath Gallery, Atlanta
  • 1974 Henri Gallery, Washington, D.C.
  • 1974 Municipal Art Gallery, Jackson, Mississippi
  • 1974 New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans
  • 1974 Galerie Simonne Stern, New Orleans
  • 1975 Ida Kohlmeyer: Painting and Sculpture, Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, Alabama
  • 1976 Galerie Simonne Stern, New Orleans
  • 1977 Heath Gallery, Atlanta
  • 1979 Galerie Simonne Stern, New Orleans
  • 1981 Heath Gallery, Atlanta
  • 1984 Heath Gallery, Atlanta
  • 1985 Ida Kohlmeyer: Thirty Years, Mint Museum, Charlotte, North Carolina. Toured Nationally through
  • 1985 Jerald Merlberg Gallery, Charlotte, North Carolina
  • 1987 Heath Gallery, Atlanta
  • 1989 Heath Gallery, Atlanta
  • 1994 Heath Gallery, Atlanta
  • 1994 Jerald Melberg Gallery, Charlotte, North Carolina
  • 1996 Jerald Melberg Gallery, Charlotte, North Carolina
  • 1996 Ida Kohlmeyer: New Dimensions1976-1986, Tuscan Museum of Art, Tuscan, Arizona
  • 1985,1994,1996 Columbus College, Columbus, Georgia
  • 1996 Ida Kohlmeyer: A Survey, Galveston Arts Center, Galveston, Texas
  • 1996 Ida Kohlmeyer: Recent Works, Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, Georgia and Springfield Art Museum, Springfield, Missouri
  • 1997 Kohlmeyer at Longue Vue, Longue Vue House and Gardens, New Orleans
  • 1997 Ida Kohlmeyer: Recent Works, Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, Laurel, Mississippi
  • 1997 Ida Kohlmeyer: In Memory of a Creative Spirit, Masur Museum of Art, Monroe, Louisiana
  • 1997 Ida Kohlmeyer: A Memorial Tribute, Mobile Museum of Art, Mobile, Alabama
  • Group Exhibitions:

  • 1955 Fifty-fourth Annual Spring Exhibition, Isaac Delgado Museum of Art, New Orleans
  • 1958 Now- in New Orleans: 14 Contemporary Artists from New Orleans, Riverside Museum, New York
  • 1958,1962,1965 Annual Exhibition of American Painting, Chautauqua Art Association, Chautauqua, New York
  • 1958,1962,1965 Painters in the New South, Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, Alabama
  • Annual Exhibition of Southwest American Art, Oklahoma City Museum of Art
  • 1961 First National Exhibition, Knoxville Art Center, Knoxville, Tennessee
  • 1961,1962,1965 National Midyear Show, Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio
  • 1962 Americans1962, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia
  • 1961,1962,1965 Painting and Sculpture, John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida
  • 1962,1964 Painting of the Year Exhibition, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia
  • 1962,1964 Inter-American Annual Exhibition of American Painting, Centro Artistico Barranquilla, Barranquilla, Colombia
  • 1962,1964 Sixty-ninth Western Annual, Denver Art Museum
  • 1962,1964 Twenty-fifth Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting, Society of Four Arts, Palm Beach, FL
  • 1962,1964 Eighteenth Southeastern Annual Exhibition, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA
  • 1963,1965,1967 Biennial of Contemporary American Painting, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
  • 1964 Anthology of Modern American Painting, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA
  • 1964 Art Across America, Knoedler Galleries, New York
  • 1967 4-Man Show, J.B. Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky
  • 1972 Tecera Bienal de Arte Coltejer, Medellin, Colombia
  • 1972 Davidson National Print and Drawing Competition, Davidson College Art Gallery, Davidson, North Carolina
  • 1972 Artists' Biennial Winnners, New Orleans Museum of Art
  • 1972 Color, Light, and Image, Women's Interart Center, New York
  • 1972 North, East, West, South, Middle: Exhibition of Contemporary American Drawings, Moore College of Art, Philadelphia
  • 1976 American Artists '76: A Celebration, Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas
  • 1976 Art Today, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, TN
  • 1977 Five from Louisiana, New Orleans Museum of Art
  • 1978 Five Plus Ten, Spoleto Art Festival, Hasley Gallery, College of Charleston, South Carolina
  • 1978 Aesthetics of Graffiti, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA
  • 1978 Louisiana Enviornments, Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans
  • 1979 Art Patron Art, Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
  • 1980 Louisiana Major Works,1980, Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans
  • 1980 Patterns and…, First Women's Bank, NY
  • 1982 Inaugural Exhibition, Sherry French Gallery, New York
  • 1983 Painting in the South: 1564-1980, Virgina Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Toured nationally through1983
  • 1986 National Women Artists Invitational, Rudolph R. Lee Gallery, Clemson University, Clemson, SC
  • 1986 Newcomb Centennial, 1886-1986: An Exhibition of Art by the Art Faculty at the New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans Museum of Art
  • 1991 Four Centuries of Women's Art, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.,1990. Toured in Japan through 1991
  • VI. BIBLIOGRAPHY

    1. 1. Plante, Michael. Ida Kohlmeyer: Systems of Color. New York: Hudson Hills Press, 2004. In association with Newcomb Art Gallery.

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