Jules Olitski (American, born Ukraine, 1922–2007)
King Kong, 1973
Cor-ten steel, 5 feet x 9 feet 4 inches x 8 feet 5 inches. Gift of Sophia Healy. 1994.003
Location: In front of Johnson Memorial Building
Jules Olitski is better known as a painter, but he also created a significant body of large-scale sculpture. An active participant in the Color Field Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, he poured and sponged large areas of modulated colors onto the canvas. He also painted the surfaces of his first sculptures. In 1973 he began to use Cor-ten steel, giving his sculptural surfaces a monochromatic sheen that matched the voluptuousness of his earlier paintings.
King Kong consists of two circular, concentric rings, the smaller one contained and partially hidden within the larger. Olitski altered the outer ring by cutting into and puncturing its surface, leaving behind negative imprints that vary in size from quite large to almost invisible. These openings partially reveal the inner ring and suggest narrative or symbolic meaning. Four crude gashes into the upper, bounding periphery allow the sculpture to be read as a primitive crown, as well as work of art that has suffered major damage caused by the attack of a gigantic simian, the mythic King Kong.