Open Season: Culture Preview to the 2019-20 Season
October 8, 2019 - Phil Lederer for SRQ Magazine
SYD SOLOMON AT THE RINGLING Camouflage and Calligraphy
For Sarasota’s art aficionados and culture vultures, the works of acclaimed abstract expressionist Syd Solomon are well known. And for locals, his time here remains a source of cultural pride and a milestone in the area’s artistic history. But a new exhibition opening this December at The Ringling Museum—Syd Solomon: Concealed and Revealed—proposes to dive deeper into the artist’s early life and inspiration than ever before, presenting a definitive origin story for a man who became a local legend.
Dominating the Searing Wing, Concealed and Revealed brings not only several of Solomon’s paintings to the museum, but also several artifacts from the artist’s early life, most importantly his service in World War II and professional start as a graphic designer and calligrapher in Sarasota, on loan from the Solomon Archive. His son, the artist Mike Solomon, has been working on the archive for five years now, and even he has been surprised by what they’ve found. “The general knowledge was always there,” he says, “but the surprise was in the details, and how it connected to his painting.” When the elder Solomon served in World War II, his camouflage designs hid men, tanks and supplies from German air raids following the Normandy invasion. Fake trees on wheels disguised Allied planes resting on makeshift airstrips. And when Solomon and his fellow soldiers liberated the French town of Roye, they held a big celebration with a parade and a printed poster. That original poster will be on display. And when Solomon moved to Sarasota in 1946, he turned his talents to signage for local businesses and layout work for local newspapers. “And a lot of the look of Sarasota in the ‘40s, in terms of advertising and signage, he made,” Mike says. But more than that, both of these experiences—Solomon the camouflagist and Solomon the calligrapher—would greatly influence the celebrated abstract expressionist he became. “For the people who think they know Syd Solomon’s work, they’ll realize it’s a lot more complex than they thought,” Mike says. “It wasn’t just about nature. It’s expressionism. It’s a personal, autobiographical thing.” Syd Solomon: Concealed and Revealed opens at The Ringling this December.
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