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15 Canvas Study of the Grand Canyon

15 Canvas Study of the Grand Canyon is a masterful and immersive symphony of paint that epitomises David Hockneys idiosyncratic style. A panorama of chromatic wonder, Hockneys vision of the Grand Canyon is steeped in his knowledge of art history and the significance of this site as a cornerstone of the American cultural consciousness. A high horizon line evokes the enormity of the landscape and recalls the work of panoramic painters from the Nineteenth Century, while Hockneys remarkable use of colour provokes comparisons with the Fauves of the early Twentieth. Painted in preparation for A Bigger Grand Canyon, the seven and a half metre wide painting housed the National Gallery of Australia, the present works importance is clearly indicated by its inclusion in some of the most important exhibitions of the artists work since its execution, including his major 1999 exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and his blockbuster retrospective in London at Tate Britain in early 2017. Hockneys status as Englands greatest and best-loved living painter has been cemented by these landscape paintings, and the present work, one of the greatest examples in private hands, is a perfect example of the style that has catapulted him to international acclaim. The American West has long served as an indelible symbol of American national pride and identity, immortalised in creative arts from Thomas Morans paintings to John Steinbecks literary odysseys. It is the land of opportunity, the beacon of the American Dream. The very concept of manifest destiny, a doctrine that held that the westward expansion of the United States was not only inevitable but divinely endorsed, found its symbolic equivalent in the Grand Canyon. Towering cliffs reaching over a mile high drop precipitously down to the Colorado River below. For over two hundred and fifty miles the water wends its way through this imposing landscape, culminating in a lake just outside Las Vegas, on the border of California, the promise land of the Gold Rush. For many painters the spiritual connotations of this landscape, and its status as the epitome of the American Sublime, are pervasive. Ostensibly, the Grand Canyon paintings were something of a departure for Hockney. He had spent much of 1997 in his home county of Yorkshire, visiting his mother and his friend Jonathan Silver, whose terminal illness provided tragic impetus for Hockney to remain in the area. As a result, Hockney began a series of large scale paintings of the Yorkshire landscape, such as Garrowby Hill and Road Across the Wolds. Lush, green, and somewhat provincial, these paintings seem a far cry from the fierce reds, oranges, and purples of the present work. The colours themselves are chosen to evoke a very direct sense of place: these reds could not be found anywhere other than at the Grand Canyon, just as the greens could only be seen in the Yorkshire hills. Despite this apparent divergence, the works are bound both stylistically, with their concern for spatial depth and use of colour, and thematically, with the newly emergent spirituality of Hockneys practice. Indeed, Laurence Weschler, a regular interviewer of the artist, identified the impetus for Hockneys paintings of the Grand Canyon and of Yorkshire as a subliminal response to the deaths of many of his friends during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and early 1990s. The artists paintings of flowers have often been interpreted as responses to these tragedies, but Weschler proposed that with landscape you keep returning to magnificence and awe and might the proper word be reverence as responses to all this devastation (Laurence Weschler in conversation with David Hockney, in: Exh. Cat., L.A. Louver, Los Angeles, Looking at Landscape/Being in Landscape, p. 6). After all, there is a definite human dimension to these paintings that purport to be desolate depictions of landscapes. The techniques that Hockney uses all revolve around the perspective of the spectator who stands in the centre of the composition. Indeed, Hockney said of these works that his intention was to convey the experience of space (David Hockney cited in: Laurence Weschler, Wider Perspectives: Painting Yorkshire and the Grand Canyon (1998), True to Life: Twenty-five Years of Conversations with David Hockney, Berkeley, 2008, p. 112). However, as Chris Stephens, the curator of Hockneys 2017 Tate retrospective, notes, there is a definite degree to which these works are positioned in relation to a different register of the human experience, that is, a spiritual sphere (Chris Stephens, Experiences of Place, in: Exh. Cat., London, Tate Britain, David Hockney, p. 163). Hockney seems to accept this idea of spirituality. In the same interview with Weschler he responded: A friend of mine looked at [the Grand Canyon painting] and said he thought he was on the way to Heaven, as he put it. A very nice thing to say really. My sister thinks space is God, and Im like that (David Hockney in conversation with Laurence Weschler, op. cit., p. 31). Hockney first began the Grand Canyon paintings after a series of drives between Santa Fe and Los Angeles. Impressed by the vast emptiness of the West, Hockneys intensely associative mind began to draw parallels between the landscape he had painted in Yorkshire, and the rugged terrain he saw before him. Both were largely unpopulated Hockney said of the areas he visited in Yorkshire that not many people live here and offered panoramic views that seemed, at least in Yorkshire, out of place in a densely populated country (David Hockney, cited in: Chris Stephens, op cit., p. 161). This stimulus was compounded by Hockneys visit to a retrospective exhibition of Thomas Morans work, an artist famed for his epic depictions of the Grand Canyon. Moran is an artist who Hockney admires and feels tied to, given that, in Hockneys words, he had been born exactly a hundred years before me not forty miles away from Bradford, Hockneys own birthplace, and had subsequently emigrated to the United States (David Hockney in conversation with Laurence Weschler, op. cit., p. 112). Despite these similarities, Hockneys interest in depicting the experience of space should not be confused with Morans interest in topography and Turner-esque stylistic flourishes. Unlike Moran, whose spirituality elevates landscape to a plateau above human comprehension, Hockneys paintings channel the awesome power of nature, rather than an implication of divine intervention. As Hockney said when the landscapes were first shown, the Grand Canyon is the biggest place you can look out over that has an edge (Ibid., p. 28). As such, it presents an enormous challenge to painters; indeed, during one of his roadtrips, Hockney came across an old advertisement for the Santa Fe railroad that described the Canyon as the despair of the painter, which quite naturally he interpreted as a challenge (Chris Stephens, op. cit., p. 161). The resultant paintings are dizzyingly immersive. Recalling nineteenth-century panoramas and Monets curved Nymphéas canvases at the Orangerie in Paris, the viewer is obliged to move around in order to take them in. Hockney addressed the task of painting on this scale in a fashion analogous to Constable when he was working on his famous six-footers. Working from sketches made on site, he prepared a careful drawing of the composition and then a small series of large scale paintings, including the present work. However, instead of creating the works on a single, huge canvas, Hockney adopted a new device that solved the impracticalities of working in such gigantic proportions whilst simultaneously invoking art historical associations with Modernism and American Minimalism. This device consisted of using multiple small canvases assembled in groups of as many as 60. Not only was this intensely liberating, as it allowed Hockney to extend his canvas with minimal effort, but it created a grid-like framework, the most recognisable motif of the austere work of Piet Mondrian, Donald Judd, and Carl André. Rosalind Krauss described the grid in 1979 as a structure emblematic of the modernist ambition with the visual arts (Rosalind Krauss, Grids The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths, Cambridge, Mass., 1985, pp. 10-22), but in the context of Hockneys exuberant painting, which flies in the face of all the anti-mimetic theories of both groups, the usage of the grid proffers a wry commentary on the demise of Modernism (Tim Barringer,Seeing with Memory: Hockney and the Masters, in: Exh. Cat., London, Royal Academy of Arts, David Hockney: A Bigger Picture, 2012, p. 51). Quite aside from showcasing Hockneys renewed engagement with nature, spirituality, and art history, these works demonstrate his fundamental understanding of his adopted homeland. Quite aside from the associations of the West with ideas of American exceptionalism and manifest destiny, it is fundamentally connected to the fantasy of the outlaw. From cowboys to hippies to biker gangs, material iterations of the freedom that constitute the basis of Americas self-image have always been associated with the Outback and the West in general. America styles itself as the land of individual freedom, and the vast lawless zone in the west of the country is the arena where this liberty can be enjoyed. Before he even arrived in Los Angeles in 1964, Hockney had begun to paint images of Los Angeles as a landscape of pleasure, a bacchanalian arcadia of sexual freedom (Tim Barringer, op. cit., p. 46). As a gay artist growing up in the north of England Hockney felt ostracized. He, like many others, considered L.A. to be a Mecca for the gay community, an idea bound up not only with the actual sexual liberation of California, but the pervasive idea of the individual liberties enjoyed by Americans. Although many of the illusions surrounding the myth of the renegade American have been laid bare by the work of artists such as Richard Prince with his Cowboy series, there is a lingering appeal to the vast unpoliced expanses of the American desert. Hockneys Grand Canyon paintings tap into this notion of liberty, and harness the symbolic weight of the American desert as an icon of freedom. Born of Hockneys immersion in American culture and his turn towards landscape at the end of the millennium, 15 Canvas Study of the Grand Canyon stands at the forefront of the artists output. Bound up in notions of spirituality following the death of his friends, as well as a self-reflective meditation on the artists own position as an outsider, this work possesses a searing humanity despite the absence of human figures. The wry joke at Modernisms expense is entirely in-keeping with Hockneys cheeky disposition, and the colours, cacophonous and vibrant, with the light yellow of the foreground giving way to the deep red of the mountains, heightened still further by the strip of blue across the top of the composition, are among the most exciting and alive of the artists opus. Steeped in history, both social and artistic, 15 Canvas Study of the Grand Canyon is a masterpiece that represents the very best of Hockneys work.

  • GBRGroßbritannien
  • 2017-10-05

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Bronze

Bronze is an icon of Jean-Michel Basquiats oeuvre; a rarefied painting of measured compositional concision and devastating graphic impact. Searing in its intensity, this work explicates the importance of West African cultural precedent to Basquiats inimitable style, and the influence he gleaned from the entire spectrum of art history from the ancient to the contemporary. Bronze oozes with the bravura confidence of the young king of Downtown New York; through its dramatic and engaging composition, Basquiat asserts his right to a cross-continent lineage dating back thousands of years and proclaims his role as the shaman of a new cultural tradition. Bronze is imbued with a mood of ancient significance and alchemical reverence. Its title speaks of precious metal; of prehistoric trade; of a sense of inherent value and gravitas far more significant than modern currency. This sense is exacerbated by Basquiats use of gold an immensely important colour and material that, for the artist, signified the sense of triumph, transformation, value, and egotism that was rapidly pervading his career. By 1982, the artist felt that his work had become a sort of alchemy: just as the mystical alchemist could conjour gold from nothing, so too could Basquiat turn even the most instinctive artistic gesture into money and success. As Basquiat recounted to Henry Geldzahler about his paintings of this time: I was writing gold on all this stuiff, and I made all this money right afterwards (Jean-Michel Basquiat in conversation with Henry Geldzahler, Interview, January 1983, online). Bronze is imbued with a sense of ancient significance by its composition, with a single head executed in fierce black, brown, and white contrasting against a variegated background of pink, beige, grey, and gold. We are reminded of Byzantine icons which showed Saints and figures of biblical reverence depicted flatly against shimmering gilded backgrounds. We think of Grecian urns, showing Gods and nymphs as flat black silhouettes against backgrounds of deep terracotta. We can even recall the portraiture of the Renaissance. Indeed, in the curlicues and hatchings surrounding the painting's central head, we are specifically put in mind of Caravaggios Medusa a blueprint for the brand of emotional impact and visceral power with which Basquiat charged his work. Bronze is a clear demonstration of the influence that African culture had upon Basquiats work. Indeed, it was one of his earliest and most overt engagements with a theme that would occupy him for the rest of his life. The central visage seems directly derived from the ceremonial masks and figures of West Africa, with eyes and mouth abbreviated into hollow ellipses, cheekbones indicated with individual teardrop ovals, and forehead adorned with a pyramidal ornament. We are reminded of the Fang Heads of Gabon, which share their powerful dark silhouette with this work, tapering from broad forehead to jutting jaw. Meanwhile, in the flat line defining the brow of this figure, and in the manner that the nose is delineated in sharp perpendicular lines, we can recall the Nkisi Power Figures of the Songye peoples from the Democratic Republic of Congo, which were endowed with spiritual significance and bestowed fertility upon the villages in which they were held. Elsewhere, in the ornamentation on the forehead of Basquiats central face, and particularly in the hatchings and curls that peel off towards the upper stretcher bar, Bronze is redolent of the Kpeliyee Face Masks of the Senufo peoples from the Cote dIvoire, which are carefully carved with raised and incised scarification patterns, and adorned with crowns of feathers and manes of raffia fibre. Basquiat had been a regular visitor to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as a child, which holds fantastic examples of each of these objects. In adulthood, the artists interest in this field grew stronger and more erudite, as he developed a close relationship of immense mutual respect with Robert Farris Thompson, the renowned Professor of African art at Yale. Basquiat and Thompson were introduced by the hip-hop artist Fab 5 Freddy; Thompson was wholly and immediately enamoured by Basquiats ferocious painting style and has written about his work at some length since, contextualising it within the context of the African tradition. Thompson recognised the power of works such as Bronze, describing them as: Incantations of his blackness, incantations of what he was afraid of Hes like a classical African drummer, just translating his nervousness into art. It was as if he was trying to turn his fears into creative energy (Robert Farris Thompson cited in: Phoebe Hoban, Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art, New York 1998, p. 249). Of course, African culture had more than just aesthetic relevance for Basquiat. As a young black man growing up in New York in the late 1970s, he was intensely aware of race, and intensely aware of African American history. Born to a Puerto Rican mother and a Haitian father, Basquiat could trace his personal lineage to the slave ships that brought his ancestors to the Caribbean from West Africa. Indeed, some years after he created Bronze, in 1986, he fulfilled a lifelong fantasy and visited the Cote dIvoire. Basquiats Swiss gallerist, Bruno Bischofberger, organised an exhibition in Abidjan to mark the occasion, and afterwards the artist travelled to rural Korhogo the capital of the Senufo tribe in the Northern part of the country. Bronze should be viewed as a significant early step on the path to the Cote dIvoire for Basquiat, demonstrating his absolute understanding of the cultural and aesthetic mores of the country even years before he travelled there. It is interesting to compare the present work, painted in the year that the artist truly broke into the international art scene, with Riding with Death, a work he completed very shortly before his premature death by overdose. Both feature gold backgrounds and rarefied pared-back compositions; both make clear and poignant reference to African American cultural concepts; and both feature prominent skull-like motifs. Viewed together, these two works can almost be viewed as book-ends to an extraordinary career; demonstrations of the consistency and creativity with which this artist engaged in the themes that were most important to him. In the creation of Bronze, as in the creation of all of his most important paintings, Basquiat was not only looking at African and Oceanic art, but also looking at the art of those who had looked at it before him. In the words of Tony Shafrazi: When Basquiat began to invent and elaborate his alphabet of fragmented anatomical notations with sharp incisions of line in 1979-80, the fascination with non-European iconography and the significance of the objects themselves from prehistoric cave drawings, to African and Oceanic art had already become a thing of history, relics from a tired age Basquiat incorporated these authentic symbols into the language of painting resulting in shockingly distinct contemporary works of art full of magical power and significance (Tony Shafrazi, Basquiat: Messenger of the Sacred and Profane, in: Tony Shafrazi, Ed., Jean-Michel Basquiat, New York 1999, p. 13). Pablo Picasso is the most apparent influence on the present work another artist who flooded his art of a certain period with the iconography of West African cultures. Basquiat idolised Picasso and shared a number of his artistic traits besides this; his surety of line, his constant reinvention of style, and the effect that his forceful personality had upon his work and its immediate appreciation. Cy Twombly is also hugely important for Basquiat and was undoubtedly directly influential upon the creation of the present work; his precedent is notable in Bronze in the ferocity and instinctiveness of gesture, and particularly in the use of text. Basquiat used text in a manner that owed much to Twombly; his text was not intended to annotate or explain his figurative forms and abstract marks, but rather to co-exist alongside them. Both Basquiat and Twombly deployed text and image in symbiosis, allowing isolated words and phrases to suffuse interpretation with intangible mood. There can be no doubt that Twombly was on Basquiats mind during the creation of Bronze in October 1982, for in the summer of that year, he had become the youngest artist ever to be invited to show at Documenta in Kassel, where he exhibited alongside the modern master himself. Jean Dubuffet is another of Basquiats most significant predecessors. He was the prototype of the art-world outsider, whose oeuvre was based upon a fundamental and conscious break with the art establishment. He found creative succour in the art of children, the art of the mentally ill, and poignantly in the context of the present work in the art of African and Oceanic cultures. Dubuffet was a founder of the Art Brut movement alongside Charles Ratton a gallerist who specialised in African art and artefacts. Thus, Dubuffets oeuvre was filled with reference to the masks, shields, and figures of non-European cultures that had made their way to mid-century Paris. He not only shared Basquiats complete depictive fluency, but also his appreciation for the raw power of these far-flung artefacts, revered as objects of immense spiritual importance by the cultures that created them. Bronze appropriates the ancient spiritual importance of the African masks and figures that formed its inspiration. It is a golden exemplar of the unbridled genius and skill with which the artist was operating in 1982; the year in which he had produced work for six solo exhibitions and, as a twenty-two year old, exhibited alongside such heavyweights as Gerhard Richter, Joseph Beuys, and Andy Warhol; the year in which he created so many works that were conceived with rich iconographic meaning and executed with unbridled confidence and conviction. As the aforementioned Robert Farris Thompson recounted in an essay in 1993, Basquiat described 1982 simply as the moment when I made the best paintings ever (Jean-Michel Basquiat cited in: Robert Farris Thompson, Brushes with Beatitude, in: Exh. Cat., New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1993, p. 50). For its seamless assimilation of numerous points of influence, sheer aesthetic power, and virtuosic brevity, Bronze is undoubtedly worthy of this description. This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from the Authentication Committee of the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Signed, titled and dated OCT 82 on the reverse

  • GBRGroßbritannien
  • 2017-10-05

Spider III

Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) Spider III ‘The spider is a repairer. If you bash into the web of a spider, she doesn’t get mad. She weaves and repairs it’ –Louise Bourgeois ‘With the spider, I try to put across the power and the personality of a modest animal. Modest as it is, it is very definite and it is indestructible. It is not about the animal itself, but my relation to it. It establishes the fact that the spider is my mother, believe it or not’ –Louise Bourgeois Spider III is among the most significant and personal works created by Louise Bourgeois, an artist whose career spanned over seven decades of remarkable productivity. This rare and unique steel example of her iconic arachnid motif, executed in 1995, represents the first conception of Spider III: for each new realisation of her Spider sculpture series, before the subsequent bronze editions, Bourgeois produced a single version in steel, intended either for the artist herself or for acquisition by museums or close personal friends. Among the most rich and complex images of her long and varied practice, the spider first appeared in Bourgeois’ work as early as 1947, but began to dominate her output from the mid-1990s. Charged with the paradoxical nature of the creature itself, and reflecting Bourgeois’ own turbulent relationships with those closest to her, the spider’s wider symbolic associations are deeply entwined with its profound personal import for the artist. With its combination of irregular, hand-worked surfaces and smooth, highly finished elements, Spider III is a complex hybrid of menace and emotional vulnerability. Rearing up almost a metre in height upon its eight legs, the work is one of the earliest versions of a sculptural form she would revisit throughout the 1990s, and whose various manifestations grace major museum collections worldwide. From Tate Modern in London to the Guggenheim in Bilbao and the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., Bourgeois’ arachnid presences have been celebrated by critics and public alike. The human scale of this particular Spider creates a sense of preternatural unease, offering a more unsettlingly intimate encounter than larger spider sculptures such as the monumental Maman (1999), one version of which today towers ten metres tall outside the Guggenheim Bilbao. The tense, arched front legs of Spider III suggest that the creature is bracing itself for a burst of activity, either to flee an approaching threat or poised to attack a creature who dares to wander into its lair. Its material formulation is uncanny, reflecting the duality of a work structured on contradictions. The textural fascination of its steel surface, transitioning between the smooth, attenuated areas of the vertical elements and the molten knots of welding at the joints and abdomen, beckons tactile engagement, while our fear of the spider – itself a cocktail of innate, primal drives and cultural conditioning – inevitably flares up in response to its eight-legged form. Spider III is at once repellent and hypnotically attractive, a sinuous, sophisticated creation that nonetheless seems dredged from the very depths of the dark subconscious. As with all of Bourgeois’ work, Spider III is intensely autobiographical, relating particularly to her early childhood and the difficult relationship she had with her family. Bourgeois has widely acknowledged that the spider motif is an ode to her mother, who repaired tapestries in the family textile restoration workshop in Aubusson. Bourgeois adored her mother, and when she died in 1932, Bourgeois attempted suicide by throwing herself into a river, only to be rescued by her father, with whom her relationship was rather more complex. Louis Bourgeois was a philanderer whom Louise both admired and detested. Entangled in his own web of infidelity and deception, her father could not extricate himself from his ten-year affair with the artist’s governess that continued throughout much of her childhood. The spider, the spinner of webs, with its dual role of predator and protector, becomes the perfect totem for Bourgeois’ emotionally fraught upbringing. The weaving of webs is an important metaphorical motif that runs throughout Bourgeois’ practice. From its long associated the idea of sewing and repair – and in turn, the image of a spider – with her mother, who she saw as a protective, nurturing figure, and who had herself been irreparably damaged by her husband’s unfaithfulness and cruelty. Beyond the idea of a spider as patient, meticulous maternal weaver, the creature can also be as a stand-in for Bourgeois herself, making a defiant statement of female creativity in a field dominated by male artists. Her own weaving of artistic forms and narratives is no domestic chore, but a mode of visionary fabrication from deep-seated strands of self. As Eva Keller has written of Bourgeois, ‘She produces by secreting … Ceaselessly, she spins the space of her life and her work, incessantly inventing and redefining it. Her own extended body determines the space of her web. It incorporates the wiles of the hunter; it is host to elementary needs — for the spider, mystery and secretion are intimately allied’ (E. Keller, ‘Unraveling Louise Bourgeois: An Attempt’, in Louise Bourgeois: Emotions Abstracted, Werke/Works 1941–2000, Zurich, 2004, p. 27). The legend of Arachne, the talented mortal weaver who was turned into a spider by the goddess Athena for daring to challenge her skill, further conjures mythic associations of female envy and jealousy. Louise Bourgeois’ reputation as an artist grew steadily during the later decades of her life. Having been overshadowed for many years by first-generation Abstract Expressionists, her major importance came to be recognised in the 1980s with a series of one-woman exhibitions in New York. In 1982, she was the subject of a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art and had her first exhibitions in London and Paris. By the time she represented the United States at the Venice Biennale in 1993, her reputation as an influential and innovative artist was firmly established. Amid a varied body of work that has encompassed drawing, lithography, carving, casting, assemblage, installation and performance art, her spider sculptures remain the central icons her artistic output. Intensely personal yet elaborating universal themes, Spider III brings together the tangled skeins of Bourgeois’ life: a duplicitous father, a protective mother, and the artist, who re-enacted her psychic torment in various material forms throughout her practice. Ultimately, for all its darkness, Bourgeois’ spider is an avowal of strength, and an embodiment of the therapeutic power of artistic creation. ‘The spider is a repairer’, the artist once claimed. ‘If you bash into the web of a spider, she doesn’t get mad. She weaves and repairs it’ (L. Bourgeois, quoted in F. Morris, Louise Bourgeois, exh. cat., Tate, London, 2009, p. 272). steel 19 x 35 x 37½in. (48.3 x 88.9 x 95.3cm.) Executed in 1995, this work is unique There is a later bronze edition of six plus one artist's proof. Edition number five of six from the bronze edition is in the collection of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington D. C.

  • GBRGroßbritannien
  • 2018-03-06
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Cortège

Cortège bristles with the saturated palette and painterly force of Dubuffets celebrated Paris Circus; it is an exemplar of the period in colour, scale, depictive skill, and compositional drama. Through its ebullient forms and saturated palette, we can discern the voracity with which the artist pursued the ideals of the Art Brut movement, rejecting academic methods and eschewing art world norms. Alongside Baladins (Boy Scouts) and Veille Reine et Courtisan (Old Queen and Courtier), Cortège forms a concise group of three works that sit distinctly in the middle of the Paris Circus period, characterised by their thick grey backgrounds and focus on the dynamic figures of Parisian life. These works are of significance to Dubuffets stylistic development, serving as direct antecedents to such important works as LInstant Propice (Propitious Moment), which is now held in the permanent collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, and La Gigue Irlandaise (The Irish Gig), which resides in the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. The Paris Circus is the most famous series of Dubuffets career, inspired by the frenetic heartbeat of urban commotion that Dubuffet witnessed upon his return to the city after several years spent in the countryside in the small town of Vence. Dubuffet had left Paris despondently in 1955, when the city was still gripped by a melancholic post-war mood and traumatised in the aftermath of Nazi occupation. Upon his return in 1961, he found the capital a totally different place. Optimism and cosmopolitan bustle had replaced the gloom that formerly had prevailed. The new vibrant atmosphere proved intoxicating for Dubuffet and had an immediate and explosive effect on his work. The subsequent Paris Circus pictures are some of the most vivacious and engaging of his production, humming with movement and brimming with dynamism and impact. Such is the saturation of their colour palette and the impact of their crowded compositions that the works seem to shimmer and pulsate with unbridled energy. They emit a sense of absolute metropolitan optimism entirely in contrast to Dubuffets works of the preceding years. In the artists own words: The principle thing about [my paintings of this year] is that they are in complete contrast to those of the Texturology and Materiology series that I did previously. They are in every way the opposite In reaction against this absenteeist tendency, my paintings of this year put into play in all respects a very different intervention. The presence in them of the painter now is constant, even exaggerated. They are full of personages, and this time their role is played with spirit (Jean Dubuffet, Statement on Paintings of 1961 cited in: Peter Selz, The Work of Jean Dubuffet, New York 1962, p. 165). Cortège was executed on the 8th of September 1961, during the height of the Paris Circus period. Articulated in vivid colour and frantic brushwork, this painting conveys a sense of the thronging urban mass. We are presented with a group of four figures, linked in a foreshortened circle and defined by individual strokes of red, green, yellow, and blue. They are shown in such a blur of colour that, in many instances, their bodies indistinguishable and inseparable from one another seem to merge and overlap. In this regard, Cortège should be viewed as a precurser to the Légendes series, which includes the aforementioned La Gigue Irlandais one of the last coherent groups created during Dubuffets Paris Circus period. They are characterised by their kaleidoscopic mode of depiction consisting entirely of patchwork fields of colour. The effect is that of a homogenous all-over composition, with different figurative elements seeming to emerge and recede out of a field of diaphanous colour. Cortège occupies an important position within Dubuffets wider oeuvre executed in the midst of his most important series, but also completed with one eye looking forward to those important artistic endeavours that were still to come. This painting also plays a significant role within the wider history of twentieth-century art. Dubuffet was notoriously resolute in his rejection of academic art-historical precedent. He was a founder of the Art Brut movement and purposefully steered his sphere of influence towards the art of children or the mentally ill, rather than the accepted Parisian salons of preceding decades. However, this is not to say that he worked in a vacuum. Indeed, the very composition of this work, with the figures appearing linked and foreshortened in an elliptical ring, seems steeped in art historical redolence. We can recall Matisses Dance (I), or even Nicolas Poussins Dance to the Music of Time held in the Wallace Collection in London. Cortège also merits comparison with Pablo Picassos Les Demoiselles DAvignon, painted in 1907 and now housed in the Museum of Modern Art in New York: both works utilise a warped mode of depiction where foreground is indistinguishable from background, while the influence of African and Oceanic cultural objects upon Picassos painting chimes with Dubuffets reliance on outsider art forms. In the depictive style of the present work, Dubuffet also appears to have looked to his more immediate painterly peers. In the flashes of bright hot colours, in the thickness of the brushwork, and in the feverish immediacy of the composition, we can detect the influence of the American Abstract Expressionists, particularly Willem de Kooning and Sam Francis, who created a similarly irregular honeycomb of individually coloured cells in his work. Dubuffet had lived in New York between 1951 and 1952, and would return there the year after the present works creation for a MoMA retrospective. His ties to the city and its avant-garde artists were particularly strong at this stage in his career and the fruits of the relationships he held are manifest in Cortège. Translating the verve and hubbub of 1960s Paris, Cortège conveys the joy that Dubuffet felt upon his return to the metropolis. It can be held up as a milestone within this artists paradigm-shifting oeuvre, adroitly explicating the fluency and fluidity of his painterly style. Through its interpretation, we can further understand not only Dubuffets dedication to the fundaments of Art Brut, but also the manner in which he incorporated and absorbed influence from his American counterparts. Cortège embodies the imaginative and playful spirit of Dubuffets Paris Circus. In his own words: Art should always make us laugh and frighten us a little, but never bore us (Jean Dubuffet, Propsctus aux amateurs de tout genre, Paris 1946, p. 43). Signed and dated 61; signed, titled and dated sept 61 on the reverse

  • GBRGroßbritannien
  • 2017-10-05
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'the pond -- moonlight'

Multiple gum bichromate print over platinum, signed and dated by the photographer in crayon on the image, mounted, matted, framed, 1904 Edward Steichen’s ‘The Pond—Moonlight’ ranks among the photographer’s greatest achievements in Pictorial photography.  An aesthetic and technical tour-de-force, the print of ‘The Pond—Moonlight’ offered here shows Steichen operating at the very peak of his early powers.  The painterly qualities of this masterpiece, combined with its photographic realism, its large scale, and its supreme technical virtuosity, place it alongside Steichen’s magnificent study of the Flatiron Building as the photographer’s most ambitious artistic statement; together, they are the culmination of the movement known as Pictorialism.  Operatic in their intention and in their effect, the ‘Pond’ and ‘Flatiron’ series are the young Edward Steichen’s bravura confirmation of the validity of the photographic medium.  As one critic wrote in The Photogram of 1905, there was an answer to ‘that addled question in the short catechism of the camera: “Is photography an art?” with all its bungling answers in extenso. “Let the answer be: Yes: it is Steichen.”’ Like the series of Steichen’s ‘Flatiron Building’ now in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, only three examples of ‘The Pond—Moonlight’ are known, and as in the ‘Flatiron’ series, each in this trio is different in tone, in atmosphere, and in subtle detail.  In addition to the present photograph, there is the print of ‘The Pond’ that Stieglitz gave the Metropolitan in 1933; and the print that Steichen himself gave to The Museum of Modern Art in 1967.  Although created from the same negative, the three prints are the results of different photographic processes and are a testament to Steichen’s artistic goals and to his finely honed abilities as a printer.  Multiple-process printing, on this large scale, was practiced by no one as it was practiced by Steichen. The negative for ‘The Pond—Moonlight’ was made in the wetlands around Marmaroneck, New York, on Long Island Sound, near the home of Charles H. Caffin (1854 – 1918), the English-born art critic who had championed Steichen’s work in his volume Photography as a Fine Art (see Lot 5).  After the birth of their first daughter in July of 1904, the Steichens sought refuge from the stifling heat of their top-floor Manhattan apartment, gratefully accepting an invitation to spend August with Caffin and his wife Caroline.  The August visit stretched into September when Steichen suffered a bout of typhoid and was hospitalized for three weeks.  A gelatin silver print of a closely-related image, entitled ‘Autumn,’ now in the J. Paul Getty Museum, is inscribed ‘Autumn, Marmaroneck, N. Y., 1904,’ by Alfred Stieglitz on the reverse, a likely indication that the present photograph was made in September, during the latter part of the Steichens’ stay (The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal, Volume 16, 1988, fig. 93). The woods at dusk, or in moonlight, was one of Steichen’s favorite subjects, one to which he returned time and again in the years before the first World War, in paintings as well as photographs.  Although few of his paintings survive—he destroyed most of them in his notorious bonfire in Voulangis after the war—their titles echo his obsession with the effects of glimmering light in nocturnal settings: ‘The Road to the Lake—Moonlight,’ ‘The Moonlight Promenade—The Sea,’ ‘Balcony, Nocturne, Lake George,’ and ‘Moonlit Landscape,’ among others.  A rare surviving painting from that period, now in the Whitney Museum of Art, shows parallel rows of trees in an unidentified glen, the moon rising to the top of the composition, its light reflected in the water in the foreground (reproduced in Dennis Longwell, Steichen: The Master Prints, New York, 1978, p. 17).  ‘The romantic and mysterious quality of moonlight, the lyric aspect of nature made the strongest appeal to me’ Steichen wrote in his autobiography.  ‘Most of the paintings—watercolors—that I did in my early years were of moonlight subjects. . . the real magician was light itself—mysterious and ever-changing light with its accompanying shadows rich and full of mystery’ (A Life in Photography, unpaginated, Chapter 1). The influences of not only individual painters but also whole artistic movements on this period of Steichen’s work have been variously discussed in the literature: Dennis Longwell, in his Steichen: The Master Prints, 1914-1985, The Symbolist Period (op. cit.) and Lucy Bowditch, in ‘Steichen and Maeterlinck: The Symbolist Connection’ (History of Photography, Volume 17, Number 4, Winter 1999), for instance, are among many who tie Steichen to the international Symbolist movement.  Christian Peterson, in ‘The Photograph Beautiful: 1895 – 1915’ (History of Photography, Volume 16, Number 3, Autumn 1992), states the case for the Arts & Crafts movement, with its attendant influences of Whistler, Arthur Wesley Dow, and Japonisme.  And a number of scholars refer to Steichen’s relationship with Scandinavian painters such as Fritz Thaulow, especially Melinda Boyd Parsons, in her article ‘”Moonlight on Darkening Ways”: Concepts of Nature and the Artist in Edward and Lilian Steichen’s Socialism’ (American Art, Volume 11, Number 1, Spring 1997).   That a host of authors have found sources for Steichen’s early work in this variety of international styles testifies to Steichen’s talents as a visual magpie, seizing and synthesizing from the cultural plethora around him, not only in his Pictorialist phase, but throughout his career.  And, as always with Steichen, the total, as in ‘The Pond—Moonlight,’ was equal to far more than the sum of the parts. Steichen admitted that, following in the traditions of the day, he initially saw his woodland photographs as preliminary studies for moonlight paintings.  ‘I made realistic notes of the actual night colors on the spot,’ he wrote about one Milwaukee twilight photography session, ‘describing the colors I saw in terms of a mixture of pigments to be used in the painting’ (A Life in Photography, unpaginated, Chapter 1).  If a Steichen letter from 1903 is any indication, the photographer vividly recorded in his mind the colors of a setting, even if planning a photograph: ‘We had a moon night before last—the like of which I had never seen before—the whole landscape was still bathed in a warm twilight glow—the color was simply marvelous in its dark bright—and into this rose a large disc of brilliant golden orange in a warm purplish sky—Gold. . . ’ (quoted in Longwell, op. cit., p. 94).  The ability of oil on canvas to capture the colors of a night setting, as well as its shadowy forms, was for Steichen one of painting’s most valuable aspects.  Steichen was from an early date preoccupied with color in photography, and he was one of the first to jump on the bandwagon, in 1907, when the Lumière brothers devised the first practical photographic color process, the autochrome.   Indeed, as aficionados of Camera Work know, so committed was Steichen to capturing the subtle colorations of certain moonlit scenes that he resorted to personally hand-tinting every copy of two photogravure plates issued in Camera Work:  the ‘Road into the Valley—Moonrise’ in the Steichen Supplement of 1906, and ‘Pastoral—Moonlight’ in Camera Work Number 19, from 1907. It was the malleable gum-bichromate process, and his consummate mastery of it, that allowed Steichen to realize to the fullest his vision of the moonlit landscape.  He was conversant in the basics of gum-bichromate before he left for Paris in 1900--‘I had read an article by Robert Demachy, a famous French photographer, about a process that he used extensively and referred to as a gum-bichromate process,’ he wrote in his autobiography (A Life in Photography, unpaginated, Chapter 1)—and he had experimented with gum in his Milwaukee images.   His exposure to the European masters of the process, however, as well as the photographs he saw in the European salons, broadened his outlook and showed him the possibilities of what could be achieved in terms of multiple printing on a large scale. His best introduction to the expressive uses of gum-bichromate would have been Robert Demachy (1859 – 1936), the French gentleman photographer who was married to a relative of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and was a fluent English speaker and writer.  Demachy practiced the gum-bichromate process almost exclusively from the 1890s until 1906, when he took up the Rawlins oil process.  His writings on gum-bichromate, in both French and English, were authoritative, and he befriended Steichen during the young photographer’s first sojourn in Paris.  The photographer who brought both scale and multiple colors to the process was Heinrich Kühn (1866 – 1944) (see Lots 38 – 40), the leader of the Viennese secession and like Demachy, a contributor to Camera Work.   Steichen met him in Munich in 1901, and could not have failed to have been impressed with the vivid colors achieved by Kühn through multiple, layered printings from different negatives. The works of these and other European practitioners of gum-bichromate, alone or combined with other processes, were seen and studied by Steichen at the salons on the Continent and in London. In France, Steichen began working in gum-bichromate and combination processes with a vengeance.  Always ready to take up a challenge, he rose to the process’s technical demands and used its painterly qualities to prove that certain types of photographs could be worked over and multiply-printed until they were indistinguishable from etchings or other traditional fine prints.  His duping of the jury of the 1902 Champs de Mars salon is told over and over again in the Steichen narrative: how he submitted, and had accepted, ten gum-bichromate prints to the graphic arts category, only to have them rejected once the committee discovered they were photographs.  This early grand-standing aside, he worked very seriously, and with great power, in the combination processes, producing a series of Pictorial masterworks, of which the present image is one. The print offered here is a multiple gum-bichromate print over platinum, and its depth and color come from skillful layers of manipulated, sequential printing, in different tones, from one negative.  The initial ‘base’ of the image would have been a platinum print, over which was printed one or more ‘layers’ of gum-bichromate.  Each of these subsequent layers could not only be a different tone, but could also be altered on its surface with a brush or sponge during development, allowing for manual control of the shapes and shadows.  In large format especially, the technique was elaborate, tricky, and laborious.  Although Steichen rarely discussed his printing in detail, there is an extant, undated letter he sent to Stieglitz regarding his large, multiple-process prints, which reads in part: ‘. . . [the prints] represent two months hard work to say nothing of the expense which my bills testify to.  Big plates mean more failures and cost like h__l.  I wish you could see the new things—They will be hard to hang—One in particular . . . ‘The Big Cloud’ . . . it’s a whopper—and will compel attention—although I’m afraid they may refuse to hang it— d__m if they do.  Another one Moonrise in three printings: first printing, grey black plat[itnum]—2nd, plain blue print (secret), 3rd, greenish gum.  It is so very dark I must take the glass off because it acts too much like a mirror.  I hope they will handle it carefully . . .’ (quoted in Longwell, op. cit., p. 17). As these large multiple-process prints were each created by a process not dissimilar from the creation of fine cuisine, with special touches known only to the chef, it is difficult to single out the ingredients of Steichen’s prints: thus it is hard to know if the description above applies perfectly to one of the three extant ‘Pond’ images, or to another print of the image now lost.   The print offered here has been analyzed recently by the conservation department at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and it is described by them as a multiple gum-bichromate print over platinum.  The print given to the Metropolitan by Stieglitz, also analyzed recently by their conservation department, appears to be a platinum print with applied Prussian blue and calcium-based white pigment, likely hand-applied.  The third print, in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, is catalogued as a platinum and ferro-prussiate print.  Each is different, and each is striking in its own way.  As the photographer Joan Harrison, herself an accomplished printer in alternative photographic processes, has succinctly stated, ‘Gum-Bichromate is the most individual of all photographic printing processes both in method and result.  The hand of the artist is evident in every print and the medium is unique in that its malleability allows for the development of a personal colour palette suited to nearly any taste or sensibility’ (‘Colour in the Gum-Bichromate Process,’ in History of Photography, Volume 17, Number 4, Winter 1993, p. 375). Steichen’s large-format multiple process prints presented him with what must have been the most complex and challenging darkroom experiences he had known in his career to that point, and probably thereafter.  But these multiple-process prints were difficult, costly, and time-consuming, and these limitations precluded their production in any quantity.  That, coupled with the deterioration or loss of most of the photographer’s early Pictorial negatives during the first World War, make original Steichen multiple-process prints among the rarest works in his entire oeuvre. The print of ‘The Pond—Moonlight’ offered here was purchased from Alfred Stieglitz, presumably acting as Steichen’s agent, by John Aspinwall, in 1906.  Aspinwall, a friend and supporter of Stieglitz and an amateur photographer himself, served as president of the Camera Club of New York in the early years of the last century.  The date on Aspinwall’s bill of sale, 3 April 1906, may indicate that the print he purchased was the actual print of the image included in a major retrospective of Steichen’s work at the Photo-Secession Galleries from the 9th to the 24th of March 1906.    The original bill of sale to Aspinwall, in Stieglitz’s hand, which at one time accompanied the print, is now lost.  The print was also at one time accompanied by a copy of a letter from Steichen to Mrs. John Aspinwall Wagner, a descendant of the original owner, stating that the relatively high price of $75.00, paid in 1906, indicated that Steichen and Stieglitz thought the print was an especially fine one.

  • USAUSA
  • 2006-02-15
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The master set

A group of 548 photographs by Edward Weston, printed by his son, Cole Weston, each mounted, 536 stamped and signed by Cole Weston, 12 with The Cole Weston Trust stamp, signed by trustee Cara Weston, and nearly all with title, date, and negative number in other hands in pencil on the reverse, 1918-49, most printed between 1958 and 1988, none later than 2003 The 548 photographs in this lot span the entire range of Edward Weston’s career as a photographer, from his early Pictorial figure studies to his last landscapes on Point Lobos.  There are excellent, representative pictures of his work in Glendale, where he had his first studio; his transition from Pictorialist to Modernist in Mexico; his memorable work with shells, vegetables, and plants; his elegant series of female nudes, including many images of his most important muse, Charis Wilson; his studies of cloud-filled skies and windswept dunes; his panorama of America, first for California and the West  and then for Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass; portraits of friends, family, authors, and artists over several decades; and finally, photographs from his last years at Wildcat Hill, photographs that suggest a new direction his work might have taken, had his career not been cut short by illness.  This Master Set encapsulates the full scope of Weston’s achievement in the art of photography and offers a definitive statement of his importance to the history of art of the 20thcentury.    The majority of the prints in this catalogue were made by Cole Weston in the years between 1958, when his father died, and 1988, when Cole decided to cut back on printing from his father’s negatives and concentrate on his own work as a photographer.   Although most of Edward Weston’s negatives went, as part of Weston’s archive, to the Center for Creative Photography in 1981, a selection of the more popular negatives were kept by Cole at his  Garrapata studio, and new prints were made by him from time to time, until his own passing in 2003.   Cole also had the right to borrow back negatives from the Center for Creative Photography during his lifetime. A surprising number of the images offered here are not represented by prints in the Edward Weston archive at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson: the Center has no prints—neither early prints by Edward, nor Project Prints by his son Brett—of over 140 of the images that comprise the present lot.   These include, among many others, two of the iconic shells (Conger F.2 and F.3), one of the peppers, the maguey cactus, the leeks, a rare pose from the famous ‘Charis on the dunes’ series, Charis at Lake Ediza, and Charis in a gas mask (Conger F.5). In other instances, Amy Conger, in her catalogue of Weston prints at the Center, lists only a handful of extant prints in institutions (sometimes as few as one or two) that correspond to certain Cole prints offered here.  Among these are the famous bedpan (Conger 582; the Center’s print is a print by Cole); the memorable ‘Hot Coffee’ (Conger 1175) and the Excusado (Conger 184); the bananas (Conger 597) and the Chinese cabbage (Conger 652); exquisite cloud studies (Conger 912, 913, and 1329); the duck and lily at Point Lobos (Conger 1496); Charis in the hammock (Conger 1032); and nudes of Miriam Lerner, Bertha, Virginia, and others too numerous to mention.   That few prints of these images—by Edward, Brett, or Cole—ever appear at auction, is worth noting.  Not only comprised of icons, the Master Set includes a range of images that are rare in any form and that will not be printed again.

  • USAUSA
  • 2014-09-30
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Georgia o'keeffe (hands)

Palladium print, numbered 'OK 25 E' by Doris Bry in pencil on the reverse, matted, in a modern white metal frame, 1919; accompanied by an earlier modern white metal frame, with Gilman Paper Company and Doris Bry labels on the reverse Throughout Alfred Stieglitz’s multi-decade, multi-image portrait of Georgia O’Keeffe, the painter’s mobile and expressive hands are frequently a focal point.  Among the very first images that Stieglitz took of O’Keeffe, made shortly after their meeting in 1916, are several that focus on her hands, including one in which they are held before a watercolor by the artist (Greenough 459).  Stieglitz’s initial preoccupation with O’Keeffe’s hands seems natural, as they were the hands that created the drawings and paintings that had so overwhelmed him.  It is interesting to note, however, that while Stieglitz had created a large body of portraiture of the artists and photographers in his circle, their hands rarely, if ever, play as significant role in the composition.  As his relationship with O’Keeffe grew more intimate, and the portrait project began to include semi-nude and nude studies, Stieglitz never lost his fascination for her hands.  As late as 1933, Stieglitz made a number of studies solely of O’Keeffe’s hands, including the iconic image of her braceleted hand delineating the curve of the spare tire of her Ford V-8 (Greenough 1519). The hand study offered here is as much a portrait of the artist as any of the images from the series, perhaps more so than those that focus on her face or the overtly sensuous nude studies.  With this study, Stieglitz concentrates on the parts of O’Keeffe’s body that, along with her eyes, are most responsible for her art.  O’Keeffe was an eminently practical person, and her hands were a principal interface with the world; the only other Stieglitz study of O’Keeffe’s hands to come to auction (Christie’s New York, 8 October 1993, Lot 80) show’s the artist’s nimble hands working with a needle and thimble.   O’Keeffe’s hands were also capable of expressing, or suggesting, emotion, as in the image offered here, in which a particularly fraught gesture is set in relief against a black background.   The narrow dark outline that models the edge of O’Keeffe’s lower hand is due to Stieglitz’s solarization of the print.  Frequently, when working with palladium paper, Stieglitz would solarize, or overexpose, the print during processing.  In Stieglitz’s deft hands, this technique resulted in prints with greater tonal weight, and the subtle and selective reversal of tones seen in this print. In Alfred Stieglitz: The Key Set: The Alfred Stieglitz Collection of Photographs, Sarah Greenough locates 4 other prints of this image: at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.; the George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Doris Bry’s census accounts for two additional prints: a platinum print in a private collection, and a gelatin silver print in the Library of Congress, Washington, D. C.  Bry lists the date of the negative as 1918.

  • USAUSA
  • 2006-02-15

The Circus Animals' Desertion

Cecily Brown is concerned with the translation of sensation in paint. This is not the melodrama of sensationalism, but instead the physical sensation of bodily presence and the fleeting ocular experience of seeing itself. In the manner of Francis Bacon (an acknowledged influence) as expounded by French philosopher Giles Deleuze, Brown privileges the figural over the figurative. Suspended somewhere between abstraction and figuration, her painted forms flow in and out of bodily recognition and intangible allusion. Influenced by a wide range of visual cues comprising everything from porn magazines, newspaper cuttings, and popular music through to Peter Paul Rubens, Edgar Degas, Willem de Kooning and Francis Bacon, her work revels in the extravagant potential of paint as flesh. Created between 2014 and 2015, The Circus Animals Desertion possesses the swift corporeal frisson of her more sexually explicit earlier work, and yet outwardly appears to embark on a more extreme abstract territory. Nonetheless, executed in a panoramic format and cinematic scale, this painting maintains the electrifying charge of fluid corporeal movement that utterly typifies Browns Dionysian enterprise. The present work takes its title from one of the final poems written by William Butler Yeats. Published in 1939 in his final volume, Last Poems, Yeats The Circus Animals Desertion is a lamentation on ageing and the act of contemplation itself. Written in five stanzas, this deeply reflective last work takes a look back on Yeats Romantic beginnings and ends with a stark confrontation of the here and now. As made explicit in the last stanza: Those masterful images because complete Grew in pure mind but out of what began A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street, Old kettles, old bottles, old rags, that raving slut Who keeps the till. Now that my ladders gone I must lie down where all the ladders start In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart. Approaching the end of his fifty-year literary career, Yeats perceived lack of inspiration is laid bare by the poems self-conscious inability to transcend the base commonality of everyday life. His use of the titular circus animals acts as an analogy for his own waning powers of imagination; where in his youth these circus animals used to perform freely and dazzle, Yeats has become a spectator to their absence, able only to repeat, recycle, or critique the celebrated themes of his earlier work. In searching for a new form of creativity through a self-referential analysis of the poet's back-catalogue which Yeats describes as the foul rag and bone shop of the heart this poem is widely considered a masterpiece of proto post-modernist literature. By borrowing the title from this famous poem, Browns painting responds to the unadorned mound of old rags, refuse, and sweepings of a street that Yeats poetic imagination cannot overcome. In referring to this, Brown seems to be making a comment on her own cyclical creative practice, in which new paintings are made as much in response to previous work as they are to a new idea or source of inspiration. As art historian Jan Tumlir has explained, Browns formal trajectory is marked by a continual return and recapitulation as much as by an overarching progression (Jan Tumlir cited in: Suzanne Cotter, Seeing Double in: Exh. Cat., Oxford, Modern Art Oxford, Cecily Brown: Paintings, 2005, p. 41). Rendered in typically sensuous pink, red and black, a panoramic sweep of fleshy brushwork and scattered forms is punctuated by rifts of blue, green, and yellow. Background and foreground coalesce, sandwiched between layers of serpentine and rhythmic staccato brushstrokes. In its varied colour scheme, this work invokes the Bacchanalian landscape particular to the Poussin-inspired works of the early 2000s, while the swiftness of implied movement echoes the fliting rabbit-like forms used as provocative human surrogates in works from the mid-1990s. However, it is the deliberate turning away from explicit reference in this painting that places it in dialogue with pieces such as Funny Cry Happy (2002); in 2005 Brown cited this work as the only truly abstract painting she had ever made (Cecily Brown cited in: Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith, Painting Sensation in: ibid., p. 54). In searching The Circus Animals Desertion for identifiable figurative allusions, the viewer is utterly thwarted. And yet, while this abstract schema is kaleidoscopically rich and compositionally dense, Brown maintains the fluidity of intangible bodily experience and presence that runs like a red thread throughout her production. Indeed, such is the fluency of Browns painterly ability that figurative visual anchors are not required for the work to maintain its figural essence. For what she is doing is not looking to represent, but instead make viscerally explicit the physical sensation of painting itself. Signed and dated 2014-15 on the reverse

  • GBRGroßbritannien
  • 2017-10-05

Wir Sind Durch

"Wir sind durch is iconographically related to the theme of the colossal figures... the diabolical images, enlarged and deformed through the manipulation of graphic reproduction techniques." Gloria Moure in Sigmar Polke, Barcelona 2005, p. 80 Sigmar Polkes Wir Sind Durch is a material exploration of the limits of painting, bringing together disparate mediums and conceptual approaches to lay bare the process by which artists create meaning. Polke first entered the artistic discourse in 1963, after he and his former classmates Manfred Kuttner, Konrad Lueg, and Gerhard Richter, installed an exhibition of their work in an empty butcher shop in Dusseldorf, dubbing their new commodity based, Pop art influenced style, capitalist realism. From then on, Polke consistently pushed at the visual limits of artmaking, orienting his artistic output to address the question of what it might mean for mediums to infiltrate or become one another (Mark Godfrey in From Moderne Kunst to Entartete Kunst: Polke and Abstraction in Exh. Cat., New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Alibis: Sigmar Polke 19632010, 2014, p. 136). The present work, roughly bisected diagonally into dark and light, embodies this enduring thread of inquiry. The compositional structure of Wir Sind Durch contains myriad dichotomies: matte and sheen, weight and weightlessness, heaven and earth, figuration and abstraction. Taking up roughly half of the work, the upper diagonal of the canvas is an eruption of vibrant yellow drips and spray, spread out in serendipitous flecks. The pigment flares out in a lattice, as if slammed into the canvas, erasing evidence of Polkes hand, and embodying a pure act of force as mediated by spray can and recorded in paint. The more heavily worked lower diagonal is a frothy concoction, a mélange of semi-translucent acrylic, resin and spray paint. Rather than using spray paint to mediate his gesture, Polke uses a more passive process, applying pigments so that they spread out and mix, soaking into each other. When these materials come into contact, they create a cornucopia of visual effects; the lower side of the canvas is at once iridescent and also shrouded in opaque veils, as if coated in a glaze that runs from slate grey to a spectrum of aquamarines and violets all of the way to midnight black. Polke makes the resin synonymous with the support, capturing an inner glow akin to that of stained glass. This portion of the work also contains a figure, delineated with a series of white dots and lines laid on top of the pigment saturated surface. Dots pervade Polkes oeuvre, often highly condensed in the form of raster dots, which the artist transmuted into photography, video and painting in his constant blend of media and form. In the present work, Polke subverts that use, employing a form of abstracted pointillism to create an invented constellation, shifting the associations of his dots from technological processes to something more archaic and fundamental. Yet, despite this recognizable form, Polke has removed the figures function; constellations are intended to function as guides, yet in Polkes painting, the subject is anonymous and their hands, which may be displaying a gesture, are cut off. Wir Sind Durch is exemplary of the works in which Polke would, introduce ghostly outlines traced from projected images or produced with stencils, into fields dominated by spills and spreads of liquid and powdered pigment (ibid, 139). Polkes methodology draws inheritance from Max Ernsts technique of frottage, in which Ernst would rub his picture over a surface and then work into the shapes created by that random process. Polkes works differ in that his shapes and forms were ascribed irrespective of what his underlying random process rendered. In his conflation of figuration and abstraction, rather than having his surface dictate the figure, Polke formed subjects irrespective of the surface, thus reinforcing the role of the artist as the locus of meaning. An ironic distance and cynical stance towards the production of meaning pervades the essence of Wir Sind Durch. Polkes constellation suggests the supremacy of order over chaos, yet it points nowhere and is illegible. In the words of Martin Hentschel, whatever the starry heavens say to you: it could all be completely different. Therefore it is hardly surprising that Polke hones in on motifs that in themselves are concerned with the transformability of things (Martin Hentschel in Solve et Coagula in Exh. Cat., Berlin, Bahnhof Museum für Gegenwart, Sigmar Polke, The Three Lies of Painting, 1997, p. 61). Wir Sind Durch interrogates societys system of signs, miming the gestures of meaning and set of rules that govern the semiotic vernacular of art, yet upending them by exposing their boundaries, and the rules artists follow to stay between the lines. We are most grateful to Mr. Michael Trier, Artistic Director from the Estate of Sigmar Polke, for the information he has kindly provided.

  • USAUSA
  • 2018-05-17

Georgia o'keeffe (nude)

Palladium print, mounted to buff board, inscribed 'treated by Steichen' by Doris Bry in pencil on the mount, matted, in a modern white metal frame, 1919 This intimate, explicit study of Georgia O’Keeffe nude was one of a select group of 22 images Alfred Stieglitz gave to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1928 (see also Lots 10 and 23).  In this group, chosen by Stieglitz as his best and most representative work, were seven studies of O’Keeffe, of which this was one.  Stylistically, the cropping of the torso, with its uplifted arms and muscular thighs, may owe its inspiration to the sculpture of Auguste Rodin, whose work Stieglitz knew and had shown in the galleries of the Photo-Secession.  Like some of Rodin’s sculptures, the headless torso offered here, with its uplifted arms and muscular thighs, has a timeless, heroic quality.  Rodin, one of the most famous artists in the world at the turn of the last century, enjoyed a reputation for controversial modernism. At the urging of Edward Steichen, the galleries of the Photo-Secession had shown a group of Rodin drawings of the female nude in 1908, frankly sensual drawings that had caused a stir in the New York art world.  One of the visitors to the Rodin drawings show was the young Georgia O’Keeffe, enrolled at that time at the Art Students League in New York.  This was her first introduction to Stieglitz and his gallery, although they did not meet when she came to the exhibition, and it would be nearly ten years later before their real relationship began. In 1921, Alfred Stieglitz exhibited the present image in a major show of his own photographs at his friend Mitchell Kennerley’s Anderson Galleries.  This ground-breaking show drew record attendance—thousands of people thronged to the Park Avenue galleries in less than a month—and among the most moving, and controversial, images in the show were the more than 40 photographs from Stieglitz’s multiple portrait of Georgia O’Keeffe.  ‘Hands, feet, hands and breasts, torsos, all parts and attitudes of the human body seen with a passion of revelation, produced an astonishing effect on the multitudes who wandered in and out of the rooms,’ wrote Stieglitz’s friend Herbert Seligmann (America and Alfred Stieglitz, Garden City, 1934, p. 116).  In her biography of her great-uncle, Sue Davidson Lowe has written that the public ‘was electrified,’ and of the O’Keeffe series in particular, that ‘women who saw the prints were often moved to tears’ (Stieglitz: A Memoir/Biography, New York, 1983, p. 241).  Conveying as they do both emotion and intimacy, the nude studies of O’Keeffe transcend the merely sensual. Remembering the impact of the Anderson Galleries show, and the photographs of her in particular, O’Keeffe later wrote, ‘When his photographs of me were first shown, it was in a room at the Anderson Galleries.  Several men—after looking around a while—asked Stieglitz if he would photograph their wives or girlfriends the way he photographed me.  He was very amused and laughed about it.  If they had known the close relationship he would have needed to have to photograph their wives or girlfriends the way he photographed me—I think they wouldn’t have been interested’ (Georgia O’Keeffe: A Portrait by Alfred Stieglitz, New York, 1978, unpaginated). In Alfred Stieglitz: The Key Set: The Alfred Stieglitz Collection of Photographs, Sarah Greenough locates in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.,  a palladium-platinum print (Greenough 509) and a gelatin silver print (Greenough 510) made from this negative (OK 34 D).  Additionally, Greenough lists palladium prints at The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; and in a private collection; and gelatin silver prints at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and The Art Institute of Chicago.  Doris Bry, in her census of prints of this image, accounts for the prints listed above, as well as an additional palladium print in a private collection.   Bry also points out that the private collection print listed by Greenough is now in the collection of the Museé d’Orsay. 

  • USAUSA
  • 2006-02-15

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