ink on graph paper
15 x 20 in. (38.1 x 50.8 cm.)
Untitled, c. 1970s
ink on paper
15 x 21 in. (38.1 x 53.34 cm.)
American, 20th century.
Born 1921, Adrian, West Virginia; died 2008, Crabtree, Pennsylvania.
For fifty years Eugene Andolsek had a secret life creating drawings with vibrant colors and linear complexity in his free time. Working at his kitchen table on graph paper with compass and straight edge he laid out black lines and geometries, filling in spaces with colored inks mixed with eye droppers to achieve dazzling compositions. The pictures have elaborate layered patterns that can be kaleidoscopic with the radiance of stained glass and the complexity of oriental carpets and molecular structures.
Surprisingly, the pictures were never displayed on his walls nor exhibited. Once completed the pictures held no interest for Andolsek and were put in the closet or a trunk. In fact, Andolsek did not think of himself as an artist nor saw any value in what he created beyond the desire to draw them each evening. His drawings gave him a means to cope with his insecurities and dislike for his job as a stenographer for the Rock Island Railroad. By concentrating on the intricacies of each drawing, he was released from worry and his humble surroundings disappeared as he withdrew into his self-made world of dazzling colors and geometric space.
Eugene Andolsek began to make pictures in 1953 after working as a stenographer at the State Department to a job for the Railroad. His life was complicated by his mother coming to live with him, as she fled from an abusive husband. Andolsek would become her caretaker through years of illness. After retirement and the passing of his mother he continued to draw until failing health and eyesight led him to seek help. It was only after a caregiver at a retirement home saw his art work and recognized its uniqueness that they were brought to the attention of the director of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. The timing coincided with American Folk Art Museum curator Brooke Davis Anderson’s trip there, and after seeing the drawings she decided to include them in a planned show, Obsessive Drawing at the museum in 2005.
The reception to the first exhibition of Andolsek’s art was positive and proved a worthy discovery. The artist always tried to make each picture singular. What Andolsek humbly suggested might make colorful place mats are works of art with remarkable complexity that continue to amaze viewers.
- Courtesy of American Primitive Gallery
2011, Architecture of Hope - the Treasures of Intuit, Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Chicago
2010, Kaleidoscope: Eugene Andolsek's Geometric Ink Drawings, Pollock Gallery, Southern Methodist University, Dallas
2006, Eugene Andolsek: Kaleidoscopic Visionary Drawings, American Primitive Gallery, New York
2005, Obsessive Drawing, American Folk Art Museum, New York
American Folk Art Museum, New York
Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Chicago
Karlins, N.F., "Drawing Notebook," Artnet Magazine, July 22, 2010.
Patterson, Tom, "Eugene Andolsek's Kaleidoscopic Mandalas," Raw Vision, #69, Summer 2010.
Johnson, Ken, "Art Listings: Eugene Andolsek," New York Times, March 17, 2006.
Cotter, Holland, "The Desire to Draw, Sometimes a Compulsion," New York Times, September 16, 2005.