April 2020 Exhibition reviewed by Roberta Smith for The New York Times
Ida Kohlmeyer is one of Louisiana’s most renowned artists. Her painting and sculpture are personal interpretations of a wide world full of color, motion, and vitality. Rooted in the spirit of the Abstract Expressionists with its joyous colors and gestural movement, her work is characterized by an exuberance and painterly freedom, which has enabled her to express deep feeling directly on the canvas touching everyone who has ever had the opportunity to look.
Ida Kohlmeyer began her career as an artist mid-life after raising a family. She entered Newcomb College as an art student in 1950 and earned a master’s degree in painting. In 1956 she studied at the summer painting school of New York painter, Hans Hofmann, known for his use of color, who persuaded her to give up representational art for abstraction. She later met and worked with Mark Rothko when he was Artist in Residence at Tulane University. These early influences are best seen in her paintings done from 1960-1970.
By the mid-1970s, inspired by the work of Joan Mirò and an avid interest in South American Art, she developed her distinctive vocabulary of shapes and symbols originally organized in a grid format and later in loose flowing patterns. That style, which she explored for the rest of her life and eventually translated into sculpture, gave expression to her draftsmanship and encouraged her strong sense of color.
In the early 1980s, Ida extended her pictorial space into actual space with her acclaimed series of boldly painted elaborately shaped metal sculptures inspired by the glyph plans from the early grid paintings. The sculptures involve vertical arrangements of both geometric and organic shapes lending them the same animating tension and mysterious quality that is felt intuitively in her paintings.
Always developing and exploring, the last work shows even further development in a career of an artist well into her ninth decade. Ida was always convinced that her experience with sculpture enriched her later two-dimensional work. Shapes and colors are more defined and intense, arranged once again in the grid patterns that encompassed her earlier work. In a way, it is a marriage of stylistic elements, a combination of the best of her own work and the best of her influences, culminating in a pinnacle of her artistic achievement.
Ida continued to work every day in her studio adjacent to her home and rose garden until her sudden death in January 1997.