Smoke Rings June 14, 2001

Accession Number

Smoke Rings June 14, 2001

Donald Sultan

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
spackle and tar on tile over masonite

96 in x 96 in (243.84 cm x 243.84 cm)

Credit Line
Museum purchase made possible by the W. Hawkins Ferry Fund and the Friends of the Museum of Art

Label copy
March 28 2009
Donald Sultan’s Smoke Rings seem to float in defiance of the heavy materials with which they are produced: black tar and spackle, the substance used for patching holes in plaster and drywall. Sultan, who began using these kinds of materials when he was a construction worker, paints in the tradition of still life, but rather than reproducing what the eye sees, he draws attention to what it often misses, revealing the abstract visual qualities of commonplace things. His use of unorthodox media and manipulation of scale provokes a sense of strangeness that slows recognition of his subjects, allowing for minute examination of their aesthetic qualities. In Smoke Rings Sultan arrests and monumentalizes a transitory phenomenon: languid, spiraling curls of smoke. At once abstract and hyperreaslistic, the paintings are as much about the graphic gesture of white on black as they are about the beauty to be found in the ordinary world that surround us.
These meditative paintings were originally created specifically for UMMA.

Subject matter
The tradition of still life painting applied to the ephemeral phenomenon of smoke rings. Emphasizes the beauty of the everyday and of transient things.

Physical Description
Against a black background three smoke rings hang, connected by wafts of smoke. Two of the rings are in the viewer's lower left. One is in the viewer's upper right.

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type
still life

Collection Area
Modern and Contemporary

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realism (artistic form of expression)
smoke (material)
still lifes

3 Related Resources

Smoke Rings
(Part of: Screen Arts and Cultures, Fall 2009 Project)
Ann Arbor STEAM middle school tour 11-8-18
(Part of: Ann Arbor STEAM School Graphic Design Tour 11-8-18)
F20 Millman Gallery Drawing
(Part of: Resources Made by Isabel Engel)

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved

On display

UMMA Gallery Location ➜ FFW, Mezzanine ➜ M02 (Joan and Robert Tisch Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art)