Fritz Bultman was an American Abstract Expressionist and a member of the New York School artists. Bultman set himself apart from the other Abstract Expressionists with his scrupulously organized compositions, practice of sculpture on a regular basis, and innovative assemblage of collage. When working on a collage, he would paint the paper prior to organizing the abstract compositions onto their surface. His inspiration drew from years of psychotherapy, exploring myth, eroticism, and sexual symbolism. Robert Motherwell stated that of all the painters of his generation, Bultman was “the one [most] drastically and shockingly underrated.”
The title of this exhibition, The Irascible Remembered, is in reference to a famous photograph by Nina Leen, published in the January 15, 1951 issue of Life magazine. In 1950, Bultman signed a letter protesting the conservative nature of the Abstract Expressionist work exhibited at Metropolitan Museum of Art. The signees of this historic letter were identified as, “The Irascibles,” resulting in the majority achieving international acclaim as Abstract Expressionist artists including Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, among others. Unfortunately, Bultman was absent for this photo shoot because the Italian government had invited him to study sculpture in Italy, therefore labeled “The Missing Irascible. ”Bultman’s career was directly affected by this experience, as his absence from the iconic group portrait undoubtedly denied him a more prominent place in art history.
The works included in The Irascible Remembered focus primarily on Bultman’s paintings, collages, and sculptures spanning from the late 1930’s to the early 1980’s. His titles often make reference to New Orleans, for it is the city in which he was born. This is exemplified in the largest painting in this exhibition entitled King Zulu, a direct reference to the king of the Zulu Mardi Gras parade. The Untitled pair of whimsically inquisitive gouache paintings are the earliest works in this exhibition, yet he continued using gouache as a medium in even his latest works. The mid-career abstract oils and sculpture have aggressive energy, whereas the late collages are much more structured, as seen in The Blue Within and Before and After.
Fritz Bultman was born Anthony Frederick Bultman III. Throughout his life he received several awards including Fulbright and Guggenheim Fellowships and was a founding member of the Long Point Gallery in Provincetown, Massachusetts. His work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 1 World Trade Center, as well as several other major American museums and corporations.