"STILL LIFE: PICTURE MACHINE"
Written by Steven Henry Madoff, contributing editor of Art News;
Published on occasion of the 1999 exhibition "Donald Sultan: In the Still-Life Tradition"
held at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art
In the jewel-case light of the picture, the lemon sits. Its skin weighs. Its flesh glows from within, evidence that nature's bounty is a distribution of miracles. For those, at least, who can afford such miracles at their tables. The picture proposes that one of light's properties is to enumerate, as if seeing were an instrument of arithmetic, so that we may count each object brought forth from the larder. Now look, the image suggests, and wonder at the sumptuousness of these parts: not only the outsized cup, as if carved by a sunbeam and ornamented with gold, that gives Willem Klaf's painting is name, Still Life with a Nautilus Cup, but also, there among the trappings, the lemon, its skin half unwound, its fruit faceted, gemlike, to tell you, viewer, that he who can afford this picture owns such things, in the light of faith, from the wealth of his own work.
In still life, the arrangement of domestic objects means that they can be held in a hand, moved here and there to become a composition. They are inventory and invention, over which the artist and his patron hold power. They are in the dominion of realism, bound to the notion that description is a gift of fact. Though fact may be, like the objects in the picture, instrumental, put to use. So the great flourish of 16th century Dutch still-life painting was, in the argument of its Protestant and bourgeois beliefs, an emblematic art of material plenty: meticulous, triumphal, yet, in the vanitas tradition, an assertion of time's scythe - an allegory taught on a table top with a skull and burning candle, a flower with petals falling or a soap bubble floating, frail. Each one is about brevity. Each one holds more gravity than all the tonnage of life's trophies.
You can hear that dark note in the Dutch name, stilleven, life that is not animate but stilled. Its transitory sense echoes back to the Greeks and Romans whose mosaic art first snared domestic things and laid them out in flattened space - pieces of fruit or crumpled paper - and called them, from the Greek, asarotos oikos (unswept house) or rhyparographos (images of litter).
Now another picture, a great jump in time, and in that leap, in the contrail of this jet surging forward, imagine the history of three centuries of still life: from Flanders in the 1550s, when Peter Aertsen first pushed his religious subject matter to the back of his paintings so that the most common things could hoard the front: a tumult of vegetables and meat. And here are the exacting scientific fetish flowers exquisitely detailed by Jan Brueghel the Elder, called Velvet Brueghel, painted for his patrons as the 16th century ends. Now tumbling in this image-wash, back to the 15th century, Hans Memling's vase of flowers on the verso of a portrait, blossoms to evoke the purity of the Virgin.
Or rush ahead again to the last years of the 1600s, to Caravaggio, whose revolt against the lavishness of the Roman Church is seen in the simplicity of his Basket of Fruit, with its drama of lightness and dark. How spare it seems beside the heaped boards of the Northern Europeans. Caravaggio, of whom a contemporary writes, "It required of him as much craftsmanship to paint a good picture of flowers as of figures," which is a canon blast that collapses the traditional hierarchy and raises nature morte up beside religious art and history painting.
Zurbaran is also here; so internal an artist and Caravaggesque. Consider his own image of fruit, his Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and a Rose, which, too, is of a different order from the Dutch: his bounty not massed but winnowed, his fruit almost rising, lifted by light, its luminousness scrubbed clean of the worldly.
Zurbaran's is a painting of the Counter Reformation, rigorous and reduced. Yet in this same pulse of time, Rubens' supremacy in the Baroque style rules with grandiloquence; a sensuous exuberance pushed by his followers' hands toward the decorative that seems becoming in the next century, the 18th. Still lifes cover furniture, are placed above doorways. Even Chardin's work, so masterful yet as soft to the gaze as plumped down cushions, is used for a fireplace screen, as if the still life has itself been absorbed into the tableaux it pictures. And only then in the 19th century, with Goya and Manet, does something break. Goya's blood-heavy cuts of meat draped one of the other with the perfect off-handedness of casual violence. Manet, whose brush captures the immediacy of a world changing as the 1860s accelerate into our own century. From his hand, in a few strokes, come stalks of asparagus, lithe, fresh, as if to say here is the rude candor of modern life.
The contrail is enormous, the paintings awash: the Flemish, the French, Italians, Dutch, Spaniards, the Germans; the schools of floral painting; the allegorical codes invented, rigidified, then lost in the historical stream. What has happened is this: the point of still life has changed. With modernity, its purpose shifts from serving Christ's church and the moneyed class to serving painting itself and the artist's temperament. Here is Van Gogh's Lemons on a Plate and a Carafe, a vibration of a few recognizable forms so densely put down, so willed and ecstatic, that they are about the punishing beauty of paint and the mind that sees it so. The code is hugely personal, neither more nor less than the signs of Church or State, but other. And with this shift, it is no surprise, as Meyer Schapiro says, that "the painter's habitual selection comes in time to stand for the artist and is recognizably his." Schapiro is speaking specifically of Cezanne, who is here, too, in the great stream. His apples, pears and wine bottles, tables and cloths - traditional furnishings of the genre. Yet in the countless refinements of his motif, our own modernism is given direction: a psychological art in whose objects is held the whole struggle of rendering what the mind apprehends through time and feels through the eye. From this, the Cubist still life, which presses the notion that art is as much about its workings as its subjects; that the avant-garde carrying out this program does so to shock convention - to borrow David Foster Wallace's words, to be "a broom to the system."
But now the leap ahead, from Kalf's lemon to this one, more than 300 years on. Another glass and table, a lemon's peel drifting down like citrus ribbon. Like Kalf's and a thousand other specimens of the genre, a sense of fealty: he who prospers. Yet here the image is flattened out, spare, formally hierarchical. Roy Lichtenstein's Still Life with Glass and Peeled Lemon. You can hardly call it delicious, can you. The glint and succulence have given way to something far less sensuous: a visual essay on the means of the image, on the economy not so much of social class (though this is implicit) but of paint and line. The intricacies of the lemon's flesh are hardly necessary for so reliable a sign. Color is no more than a rudimentary exchange with the viewer: yellow = lemon. It is not felt, it is equated. What we learn is that still life is a tradition used now as a picture machine. It's an apparatus to pump out propositions about what painting is. At least in the hands of someone as smart as Lichtenstein, whose work epitomizes the lesson of Pop art that the world is utterly transformed by commerce. There is no need to shock the system, and Pop hardly did.
Everything in postwar America has the gleam of the packaged good. The agony of the Second World War, the outpourings of angst, are replaced in the early 1960s by a world in which deep feeling gives way to the glancing glamour of products, driven by the euphoria of the Kennedy years, of America's global rise. Lichtenstein's crisp, brightly colored image is the right package for the times, this precision-built parcel. What does it contain? An index, a still life of artfully arranged references: about the genre of still life itself; about an absence of depth in the image that tips its hat to Cubism and collage and says that the painting is less about pretending to be a window through which you look and more about the window itself. And it is about the chameleon-like fluidity of style: how Lichtensteinís benday dots quote from the look of comic strips, which are then imposed on any other style, any other history, and become his own style, his own surface. His benday dots work like a trademark, the instantly recognizable package, the perfect product. They tell us immediately that his picture is about being a thing that pictures. A very modernist thing, indeed, obsessed as modernism is with its techniques, its processes, its materials. But then the story of modern art could be told as the story of still life. The self-consciousness of modernism so visible in Lichtensteinís painting had become by this point the condition of all advanced still life Ė and would continue to be.
Which is how we get to these paintings, Donald Sultanís. It is part of his story that his own lemons came about as a response to a small Manet of the same subject, which Sultan saw in a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The line is long Ė not for the show, but for the tradition. Sultan enters here. The fruit beckoning. Now, as our century winds down, against a black so deep that it is the pure idea of backdrop, his lemons appear to thrust forward. They are enormous. The picture is eight feet square. Echoes of ovoids, spheres, nippled shapes, the weight of flesh, of fruit, a presence. Now look again. The sense of product, of industrial goods, invades the image. It is the image. If you step close enough, first looking out for the watchful guard, you can smell it: the pictureís black background is tar, a sealed package. Its wrapping is blunt matter, but it also enwraps an idea, the Pop notion that culture prefers sensation to sentiment, prefers surface to depth. It carries its modernist legacy forward, fascinated with its material identity, with its means for representing.
A picture about a thing that pictures - Lemons, April 9, 1984. But weíre far from done with this tar; and there are the vinyl tiles the tar is spread on and the plaster that is the ground, the body, of the lemonís forms. Sultanís picture-package contains its own freight of emblematic signs as codified as Dutch vanitas, but it is more about these material properties than about the subjects that emerge. Richard Serraís heavy abstract shapes, monumental accretions of oil stick, are in the weighted blackness of Sultanís tar. There, in the industrial tiles, echoes call from Donald Juddís notion of ďobdurate materials,Ē which was Minimalismís rallying cry: the ding an sich, the unalloyed thing itself of matter. And the grid of those tiles repeats no less than the chanted repetitions of pure geometric forms in Minimalist sculpture. Sultanís plaster: its physical way of filling a shape pushes the object forward, turns it into an icon, which is what happens to the idea of still life when Warhol focuses on an object, isolates and magnifies Ė Marilyn silk-screened, the sculpture Brillo Box. Or plaster again, in the hands of Claes Oldenburg, whose early sculpted still lifes of food are farther out as a reference, but are in the inevitable orbit of Sultanís eye and interests. No less for Oldenburgís wickedly enlarged forms.
Now look at these other pictures by Sultan. The images are invariably centered on the plane. They are enlarged, often cropped (add photography to the underlying debt of influence). From the grit of tar, a svelte surface is built, and the forms themselves, so reliant on black to set them off, have a purchase on elegance that resides in the simplicity and flatness of the shapes. Color, in fact, is subordinate to drawing, used less for nuance Ė to mold a form in space out of preternaturally graded hues, as Cezanne did Ė and more for the percussive impact of its graphic charge. Flowers and Vase, August 12, 1985: its silhouette of green and terra cotta playfully abuts solid form against the broken mass of leaves. There is darkness against light, curves against the rectilinear rigor of the tiles. The grid and the image accommodate a two-headed beast of postwar art Ė abstract Minimalism and the reprise of figurative painting. The tension (and self-consciousness) is explicit, and the physical heft of the picture, along with the large-scale drawing, thrusts into the viewerís space.
You see it again and again. In the stark sumptuousness of Oranges, February 27, 1987, whose strategy is to interpolate orange fruit and fruit shown as velvet negative space. Sultan invokes Man Ray, whose Rayographs were the most whimsical little still lifes: solarized black and white photographs that reversed the order of light, negative forms where the eye naturally sees positives. But then black and white are often plenty for Sultan. In Gladiolas in a Chinese Pot, December 2, 1988, in Hollyhock, January 17, 1991, the reduction to this spare palette is a showcase for the drawing itself. In each of these paintings (and many others; it is intrinsic to the way Sultan works), the drawing lures abstraction, pulls it into the figurative shape: the serpentine forms o the pot, the labile stack of black, loose oblongs that say ďhollyhock.Ē And then there is the cropping at top and bottom that emphasizes the age-old message of the nature morte painter, that he moves the domestic thing as he wants; he holds dominion. Only here, in Sultanís work, the still-life artist marshals a few means to enforce an effect of almost brutal mass. For all the elegance, there is something in the enormous enlargement that admits grotesqueness. The sense of the overwhelming plays out in the fact that anything so large that is stood too close to looms, becomes at its periphery unfocused, therefore abstract, ungraspable.
It is a curious strategy to take the intimacy of still life, that comfortable arrangement of the graspable, and turn it into the sheer physical mass, into the dominating thing. But in the historical stream, in the aftermath of Abstract Expressionism, of Pop and Minimalism, it has its pretzel logic. And how fitting, then, that Sultanís imposing package, so austere and lush, suggests this thing as property Ė shuttling us back to Dutch still life and its cozy material trophies. Only now, of course, the objects of the still life Ė the expensive flowers, the gilded goblets Ė are not so much the boast as the picture itself is: grand, seductive, to fill a wall big enough that only the bourgeois could afford it. There is no struggle, as there was once between earthly pleasure and a stern God. No, after all, this art after Pop, where goods have taken on the power of a shallow but continual solace. It seems impossible that the warning, the mortal stress of the vanitas, could exist in the vocabulary of the still life today.
Yet for all the moral and stylistic shifts in the conjugation of still life, the lexicon has hardly changed. The genre is about repetition. The same objects again and again, even back to the Greeks, before still life was still life. The forms studied, invested in, a meditation. How much this was so with Chardinís countless, beautifully limp hares, his copper and crockery. Of Cezanne getting at the truth of nature a thousand times through an assembly of apples and folded cloths. Morandi no less, with his earthen palette and small legislature of bottles, tells us through innumerable presentations, about the stillness of time in which objects become more than themselves, become talismans. The repetition in Sultanís pictures is no different Ė a selection of things, a way of working that comes to stand for the artist. Over and again, he uses the same s pace; the same materials; the same format; his colors unmixed in the stead of illusionistic ambient light. Flowers, fruit, vases, objects of the house; expiring things stilled, caught, yet now without an underlying homily.
But then, these pictures are of their times. Like Schnabel with his broken plates, like Kiefer with his straw and mud, in the early 1980s Sultan found the need to reinforce the rich palpability of things on the picture plane after Spartan Minimalism, after the ethereal abstractness of Conceptual art. In his more recent images of dominoes there is a metaphor Ė mine, not his Ė for still life: the play endless, the repertoire limited at heart, but the combinations mathematically huge, going on. What a curious turn that the physicality of these pictures was one pointer toward the installation art of the 1990s that is surely, though oddly, a tributary off still lifeís swollen river. Not that there werenít purely sculptural precedents, from Picassoís absinthe glass to Duchampís ready-mades, all the way up to Haim Steinbachís Formica shelves of detergent boxes that were made at the same times as Sultanís work. In this last decade, installation art has been a hallmark, as all sorts of unswept things have found their ways into tableaux small and large, from the scattered, abject dolls of Mike Kelley to the post-Pop collections of stacked six-packs of Cady Noland. It is as if still life has undergone this generative change, yet more protean, producing solid objects where once there were images alone.
Sultanís pictures Ė with their weight and scale, with their sculptural mass, with their polyglot references to the past Ė are a marker on that road down which still life goes. Theyíre swept up now in the contrail as it twists, the picture machine pumping, as it moves along.
"DONALD SULTAN Ė LUXE, CALME ET VOLUPTE"
Written by KK Kozik, artist and freelance art critic;
Published in the November 1993 issue of Cover
Though he classifies the finishing of a painting as among lifeís sad moments, in his studio surrounded by the silent sentries that in a week will comprise his most recent show of paintings, Donald Sultan relaxes and reflects. Surveying his studio, it is apparent that a recent stint as resident artist at Parisís Centre National díArt et de Culture Georges Pompidou has not so much impressed itself on Sultanís work as complimented three of its pre-existing conditions: Luxe, Calme et Volupte. A goldfish painting recalls Matisse, monumentalized fruit, Cezanne. Itís a strain of vision that has evidenced itself in Sultanís work before, his Lemons probably the most notable examples. Discussion of the related ambience of Like Water for Chocolate and Tampopo starts the ball rolling.
Donald Sultan: Everyone wants to make movies. Thereís only two things left to do in America Ė make movies and sell blue jeans.
KK Kozik: Now thereís a quotable quote. So where does making paintings fall into that formula?
DS: Well, making paintings is what I do. There are a few other things people do.
KK: But the audience is so, so small.
DS: It always has been for paintings, and I think itís okay because I actually still maintain that anybody who does anything creative has to, so it does influence everything even though not that many people look at it. But youíd be surprised how many people look at it compared to the old days. With all these museums open all the time, people go. Whether they actually look is another thing. Now itís like when they tried to make churches ďrelevant.Ē They were afraid they were losing all their parishioners. Now the museums are being billed as having singles nights.
But, as long as itís all settled into nice little departments where everybody is congratulating themselves, artís power is limited. Without people like Jesse Helms, we wouldnít have half the shows we have now. When you have these kinds of battles, it only makes art stronger and more interesting and itís a free society. If you do things to piss people off, you shouldnít be surprised when it works.
KK: What about beautyÖ.beauty and pleasure, is that a tired question? You know, ďwhat people think about in France.Ē
DS: I think you think about them here too but you just donít get very much of it. Oh, I think itís a rhetoric problem. I donít think they really have much relevance, those kinds of things. It always sounds great if you say, ďIím not into beauty,Ē but of course, they spend as much time fussing with their hair as anybody. I donít know what it meansÖ.
The whole idea of beauty is, I mean, isnít early Dylan singing beautifully? I mean the whole concept of beauty, if you really think about it, is a perfect marriage of expression and method. Theyíre married. What you want to say, you say the way you say it. Itís married together, the means and the thing are the same. You listen to Robert Johnson sing and thereís not a clichť in the line. Itís very beautiful. And Mozart, of course, is beautiful and Mondrian is beautiful and Rousseau is beautiful and Duchamp is beautiful. Craft is another thing. Each thing has what is beautiful. Beauty is a very sophisticated problem. There are degrees of beauty. What is beautiful is a very complex notion.
I tend to think that the whole notion of beauty is one that is not up for ridicule, and itís not up for exultation, really. Itís something that you develop for yourself. I donít think one should have to worry about it or work against it. If people say, ďThatís beautiful,Ē well, thatís their problem.
KK: How about whatís great?
DS: Greatness is the same thing, itís the same problem. When you are a kid, certain things are great but when you get older you realize that there are even greater things and that shifts. The more you know, the more greatness seems elusive. Itís easy for greatness to manifest itself to a mundane intelligence, but, for refined intelligence or experienced intelligence, greatness is a very complicated question. You could say Alexander the Great is great but what about the Eskimo who can make a shoe with a little knife. If you need a pair of shoes, thatís great.
KK: So, what do you think about?
DS: I think I approach pictures by concept. I do a picture by a concept of what is it I want to do, what is it I want to say. I want to make this particular thing and then I go about doing it and as Iím doing it it develops into something. I never quite know what itís going to be. I work it out as Iím doing it. But then when itís finished, or, what determines itís being finished, is the point just before it goes over the edge of being tired.
KK: Would the concept be as general as ďIím interested in round thingsĒ ?
DS: Yeah, more or less. I think Iíve always been kind of discovering imagery as I go along. One thing generally is always an extrapolation of something previous. I look around and I say, ďWell lately Iíve been doing round things,Ē but, you know, itís not so much that that was the point. Itís just that the fish eyes can be this, or if I turn this around or if I make the oranges elongated it can be this, or if I make this shape and do it this way it will be a walnut. But you know theyíre not really so much about walnuts as they are about working on the image, making it look like the thing so much that itís abstracted. For me itís all still about systems as well, systems of imagery. Everything is repeated over and over again. Itís not a particularly unique thing in itself; itís a thing that I repeated just like linoleum tile or like squares or circles.
KK: That is more like an element of abstraction rather than an element of visual language.
DS: I think of myself as an abstract artist. I was thinking the other day as I looked at a magazine and it was very thick Ė so much in the magazine. I was thinking that it really gets to the point that everybodyís enterprise, no matter how intense, is kind of reduced to an abstraction. It doesnít mean anything. On the one hand youíll have people out there really working to do something and theyíll have a little picture and then next to that is someone advertising a bottle and theyíll have all the space in the world. Everybodyís enterprise is reduced to something throwaway. One of the reasons I make and have always made every painting in a show of a different image is so you have to deal with these images one at a time so you canít say, ďOh thatís the domino show.Ē I might make 20 fish paintings in my life, but it doesnít mean I have to make them all at once. I do use materials Ė plaster, linoleum Ė over and over and the same colors, too.
KK: Do you rhapsodize about what you do? Itís a fairly constrained project and one assumes you must be really fascinated by what lies within those bounds.
DS: Yeah, but I donít see them as boundaries because I donít know how far they can go.
KK: Oh, I donít mean it as a chain-link fence that prevents you from doing anything else, but your project is essentially the same today asÖ.
DS: Well, I think basically everybody has a vision of things and, no matter what happens, you are basically the same person. No matter how far you reach with it, you know, you donít mistake yourself for somebody else. Thatís why I always like when people would say years ago about Roy, ďThe guyís just doing the same thing.Ē Heís doing Lichtensteins, right? Thatís who he is. If he could so somebody elseís thing, he would, but he canít. I donít know of anyone who has changed radically whoís been that interesting.
by Tom Breidenbach
With such unlikely materials as tar, vinyl, Spackle, and Masonite,
Donald Sultan builds up his thoroughly elegant paintings, which
monumentalize such ephemera as the swirling of smoke rings or a
glimpse of two birds landing. Other subjects are only somewhat less
transitory, such as the close-up still lifes featuring elephantine
black eggs placed amid ripening apples or within checkerboard
patterns of yellow roses of half-ripened tomatoes. In these, Sultan
seems concerned with the impressions made by organic surfaces, whose
contours and colors he often renders with a delicate-looking, waxy
opacity. The overall effect of his work, however, is more surreal
than naturalistic. The dark, portentous eggs appearing in half of
the ten paintings in this exhibit are largely responsible for this.
Varying in size from work to work, their surfaces alternating
between convex and concave, flat and spherical, the eggs ultimately
read as both abstract and real. They seem totemic, physical and
metaphysical realms. One wonders if they might not even be the fruit
of Lop Lop, the wraithlike bird of Max Ernst's later painting.
The new work seems generally starker than much of Sultan's previous
efforts, which, while unique and complex, still seemed to woe
something of their vibrancy to Warhol's Pop. This element seems
pared down here in favor of purer painterly effects, especially in
the black-and-white Smoke Rings April 2 1998 and Smoke Rings Feb 22
1999, where the artist's seemingly frenzied manipulation of tar and
Spackle achieves a sense of space that verges on the foreboding.
Such eerie intimations are mitigated by the artist's use of geometry
in these paintings, all of which are square. The six largest
(ninety-six by ninety-six inches) are each assembled of four smaller
squares; the surfaces of Birds June 11 1998 is divided equally into
sixty-four brackish squares whose rigidity sets off the randomly
shaped splotches in the painting's leaden background. This linear
geometry also accents the globular look of the large apples in
Apples and Eggs Feb 1999 and further emphasizes the almost
pupil-like nature of Sultan's mysterious eggs. In these hazy, lush
works, it's as if mathematics itself has become a fecundating
Another tension enervating Sultan's work involves the juxtaposition
of the unwieldiness of his chosen media, which obviously require
great effort to be combined and manipulated, with the gracefulness
of his results. The larger pieces are mounted on the wall with bulky
plywood-and-dowel platforms that - along with the fact that his work
sometimes seems more sculpted than painted - contribute to their
almost Herculean aura. Yet rather than an end in itself, this
muscularity seems aimed precisely at constructing remarkably refined
surfaces, where sunset-colored passages might float amid the gloom
mottled shadows swarm the interstices between objects. It is the
surfaces of these objects, their "skin," whether flushed or
nacreous, that in part balance the weighty plasticity of Sultan's
work on the side of the ineffable.
"DONALD SULTAN Ė NEW YORK EXHIBITION OF POPPY PAINTINGS"
Written by Edward Leffingwell, art critic and curator based in New York;
Published in the July 2003 issue of Art in America
Donald Sultan's massive new poppy paintings extend beyond the familiar address of fruit and flowers that preceded them. The largest of these physically intense, enveloping works are painted on grids of ordinary vinyl flooring tiles that are attached to six 4-foot-square panels of masonite, which are in turn fixed to plywood panels, cradled on stretcher bars and bolted snuggly into place. The vinyl-tile surfaces are then covered with the tar on which Sultan draws the poppy images. The floral forms are excavated and filled with a drywall mud that, when cured, is painted with vividly hued enamels. Sultan next introduces a seductive black rayon flocking, the texture of which suggests the pollen on the anthers at a poppy's heart. He selectively torches the surrounding areas of tile, gouging and scraping to produce rhythmically obsessive, vertical striations into their surfaces, creating an abstract ground in the process.
The three largest paintings in this show are horizontal in the manner of landscapes and huge at 8 by 12 feet. Their titles characteristically include the month, day and year of their making--a diary of their production. In one of these large paintings, Aqua Poppies Dec 10 2002, the pale blue enamel blooms overlap each other, overflowing the painting's support at the outer edges. The contours of the petals are as smoothly defined as the surface of enamel paint, which appears to have been burnished and then sanded to mitigate its reflective property. Where the painting's six panels meet, the edges are smooth.
The irresolution of figure and ground in the energetic Red Poppies Nov 20 2002 is intensified by an overall deployment of flowers, virtually filling the support. Small areas of distressed tile become the figure, leaping in arabesques across the painting's expanse. Truncated patches of flocking ornament the painting's delicately ragged edges that in turn suggest the texture of a poppy's crepe-like petals. The four sections of the smaller, square-format White Poppies with Flocked Center March 3 2002 and Yellow Poppies Dec 15 2002, complete the exhibition's reductive spectrum, the ground of the latter painting composed of a thin wash of tar. Several intimate studies of poppies in flocking on handmade paper reflect the muscular achievement of the larger works, while four larger charcoal drawings of oranges on leafy branches, two of them with flocking, further instruct the viewer in Sultan's formal interplay of figure and ground.