Newly Discovered Works from Syd Solomon at Allyn Gallup

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BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY JAN 5, 2018

In the realm of celebrated Sarasota visual artists, few names loom as large as abstract expressionist painter Syd Solomon. Still, secrets and surprises survived, and with a new exhibition opening today at Allyn Gallup Contemporary viewers will get a chance to see work never before exhibited publicly. Entitled Syd Solomon: Big Pass and opening tonight at 5:30pm, the solo exhibition curated by Mark Ormond comprises 24 pieces ranging from 1972 to 1990, including these new rarities. Solomon’s son, the artist Mike Solomon, will also be on-hand to discuss his father’s art, ongoing work with his estate and how this continued research illuminates his father’s work. “They’ll look at it differently,” he says. “They’ll understand it more in the context of what he was.”

“He was very prolific,” Mike continues, as the simplest explanation for the presence of undiscovered Syd Solomons. An artist in his own right, Mike has also spent 30 years organizing artists’ estates, and recently brought his skills to bear on his own situation. “And when you go through an artist’s body of work,” he says, “it takes a lot of time to sort out how it all fits together.” And nothing is released until cataloged and so sorted. Renewed interest and scholarship surrounding the elder Solomon’s career and output has helped, and the past couple years have yielded new discoveries and insights as Mike and others connect the dots.

Some discoveries have to do with Solomon’s time in World War II, wherein he earned five Bronze Stars. “Everybody knew that he served and did camouflage,” says Mike, “but no one knew the details.” Further study revealed Solomon worked primarily with aerial camouflage (including to hide troops and supplies during the Normandy invasion), adding a telling dimension to Solomon’s abstract perspectives and revealing a heretofore hidden influence to his masked and layered technique. Other findings relate to Solomon’s civilian work post-war, when he worked as a letterer and in sign design, including for hotels and storefronts in Sarasota. This skill can also be found peeking through in his later artistic output, says Mike.

And the newly exhibited work, largely a collection of smaller works on paper, supplies its own novel dimension to the exhibition, largely in its intimacy. The small scale magnifies the brushstrokes, allowing Solomon’s expression, which could range from the action painting of Pollock to calligraphic delicacy more at home in Eastern traditions, to shine all the brighter. “I love the jagged edges,” says Ormond, running his eyes along a prominent splash of blue on one. “It brings such a dynamism to the surface.” Peering closer and pointing out subtle gradations within the blue—those tiny touches that separate mastery from competency—Ormond has a summative pronouncement: “Syd wasn’t afraid of color.”

Syd Solomon: Big Pass opens tonight at Allyn Gallup Contemporary with a reception at 5:30pm.

Pictured: "Big Pass" (1972) by Syd Solomon.

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