Born in Siberia in 1908, Slobodkina moved with her family to Manchuria to escape the political unrest of the Russian revolution. As a young woman, she traveled alone to America, enrolling at the National Academy of Design, an experience she found stultifying. However in 1931 she met fellow student Ilya Bolotowsky, who for a time became her artistic mentor, and from 1933 to 1938, her husband. Like other Russian modernists, surrounded by ancient icons and a rich craft tradition, Slobodkina developed a lifelong appreciation of clear, rich colors, and flat, stylized forms. By the late 1930s she had begun working in a flattened, abstracted style that incorporated line, suspended or interlocking forms, and pure, unmodulated color. Her abiding affection for the Russian craft tradition is reflected in her ongoing interest in crafts and the decorative arts.
Since the inception in 1937 of American Abstract Artists - she was a founding member along with Bolotowsky - Slobodkina has served as the organization’s president, secretary and treasurer, as well as its bibliographer. She was a regular exhibitor in their annual shows, and a close associate of the “Park Avenue Cubists,” George L.K. Morris, Suzy Frelinghuysen, Charles Green Shaw and A.E. Gallatin. Indeed, in 1940 Gallatin, who owned two of her works, organized her first one-person exhibition at his Gallery of Living Art. Through the 1940s Slobodkina exhibited along with Byron Browne, John Graham, Adolph Gottlieb and Mark Rothko; she entertained Mondrian at a dinner party at her apartment. Ad Reinhardt included her in his famous cartoon, How to Look at Modern Art in America.
Anne Cohen DePietro