Ida Kohlmeyer, 84; Known As Pictographic Painter
By Roberta Smith, THE NEW YORK TIMES
Ida Kohlmeyer, an abstract painter known for colorful pictographic canvases, died on Friday at the Touro Infirmary in New Orleans. She was 84 and lived in Metairie, La., a suburb of New Orleans.
Mrs. Kohlmeyer, who spent most of her life in New Orleans, took up painting when she was in her 30’s, and managed to achieve wide recognition for her work, which was exhibited around the country.
A daughter of Polish immigrants, Ida Rutenberg earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature at Sophie Newcomb College of Tulane University in New Orleans. Her interest in art began during her honeymoon in Mexico, when she was drawn to the ceramic folk art of Central and South America.
In 1950 she returned to Newcomb, this time to its art school, and earned a master’s degree in painting. In 1956 she studied at the summer painting school of the New York painter Hans Hofmann, known for his use of color, who persuaded her to give up representational art for abstraction. For more than a decade she worked primarily in a gestural style influenced by Hofmann and other Abstract Expressionists, including Arshile Gorky and Mark Rothko, whom she met in New York.
By the mid-1970’s, inspired by the work of Miro as well as her interest in South American art, she developed a distinctive vocabulary of hieroglyphs, shapes and signs, all organized in a loose grid, that hovered among abstraction, writing and emblem. That style, which she explored for the rest of her life and eventually translated into sculpture, gave expression to her draftsmanship and encouraged her sense of color.
Mrs. Kohlmeyer had her first exhibition at the New Orleans Museum of Art in 1957. Her first exhibition in New York City was at the Ruth White Gallery in 1959.
The High Museum of Art in Atlanta held a retrospective of her work in 1972, and a retrospective that was organized by the Mint Museum of Art in Charlotte, N.C., traveled to seven cities in 1984 and 1985. Her most recent New York show was at the Mary Ryan Gallery in 1995.
Mrs. Kohlmeyer’s husband, Hugh, died in 1995. She is survived by two daughters, Jane K. Lowentritt of Metairie and Mildred R. Wohl of Mandeville, La., and two grandchildren.