Ida Kohlmeyer on view at New Orleans Museum of Art
July 14, 2021 - New Orleans Museum of Art
These symbols [in Ida Kohlmeyer’s work] exist as a kind of pictographic code, inviting us to try to decipher their meaning, but always evading any clear reference or easy interpretation...Her work feels like a code that we are never quite meant to crack.”
—Katie A. Pfohl, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art
This month, Ida Kohlmeyer’s painted aluminum sculpture Rebus 3D-89-3 returns to the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, newly refreshed from structural repairs and brandishing a brand new coat of paint. The expert restoration—undertaken by Kohlmeyer’s longtime fabricator G. Paul Lucas of Lucas Limited in Louisburg, Kansas—brings the work back to its intended brilliancy and allows us to appreciate the work of one of Louisiana’s most influential and enigmatic abstract artists anew.
Kohlmeyer, a native New Orleanian, is nationally recognized for her vibrant abstract paintings and sculptures, which are among the most vanguard works of modern art made in New Orleans during the twentieth century. She is best known for her signature “cluster” compositions: large painted canvases divided into loose grids filled with vibrantly colored abstract shapes and forms that are at once abstract, linguistic, and deeply personal.
These symbols—either gridded on canvas or presented as freestanding sculptures—exist as a kind of pictographic code, inviting us to try to decipher their meaning, but always evading any clear reference or easy interpretation. Often titling her sculptures Rebus, a term that refers to a type of puzzle or “picture riddle” in which words are represented by combinations of pictures and letters, her work feels like a code that we are never quite meant to crack.