This morning auction of
Contemporary Art at Sotheby's May 15, 2003 is highlighted by a
fine work by Lee Krassner (1908-1984), two excellent paintings
by Hans Hofmann (1880-1966), and very good works by Philip Guston
(1913-1980), William Baziotes (1912-1963), Richard Pousette-Dart
(1916-1992), Robert Rauschenberg (b. 1925), Wayne Thiebaud (b.
1920), John Chamberlain (b.1927) and Richard Artschwager (b. 1923).
Lee Krassner, the subject
of a fine recent retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum, was married
to Jackson Pollock. Her work is much more structured and organized
and consistent and it is clear that she and Pollock shared a dynamic
aesthetic. Lot 132, "Uncial," is a fine example of her
work. An oil on canvas that measures 68 by 85 inches, it was executed
in 1967 and has a very conservative estimate of $100,000 to $150,000.
It sold for $198,400 including the buyer's premium as do all
results mentioned in this article. The morning sale was quite
successful with a very few buy-ins. The sales total for $15,173,140
compared to the previous night's evening auction at Sotheby's
that totalled a bit more than $27 million.
The catalogue entry for
this lot maintains that "according to Ellen Landau, the imagery
and title Uncial are derived from medieval manuscript illuminations
that Krassner treasured at the Morgan Library," adding that
"She was fascinated throughout her life with calligraphy,
such as Hebrew, Persian, Arabic, Oriental and Celtic." "Krassner,"
the entry continued, "utilized the visual elements of medieval
manuscript writings forming a flexible vocabulary that she employed
for her own purposes. After Krassner's first major solo museum
exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1973, curator
Marcia Tucker pointed out that many of Krassner's works appear
to be painted from right to left, as if she were creating Hebrew
script, the language of her heritage. Dr. Robert Hobbs offered
his insight on Uncial stating that 'the yellow shapes at
the bottom, which look like a mirrored reversal of Krassner's
name and are allied through color with her actual signature, appear
to be an abstraction of uncial script."
Regardless of influences
and sources, Krassner's better works, such as this, are highly
organic and very painterly and some might argue that she was a
better artist than Pollock.
was perhaps the most important American art teacher of the mid-20th
Century, but his own works vary greatly in quality. There are
three Hofmann works in this auction, Lots 120, 129 and 152 Lot
120 is very explosive and impressive. Entitled "Black Splash,"
it is an oil on board that measures 22 by 26 inches. Executed
in 1948, has a modest estimate of $50,000 to $70,000. It sold
for $153,600. Lot 129, "Frolocking," shown above,
has been consigned by the Toledo Museum of Art to benefit its
acquisition fund. An oil on canvas, it measures 72 1/8 by 59 3/4
inches. Executed in 1965, it has an estimate of $120,000 to $180,000.
It sold for $344,000. It is stylistically quite different
from Hofmann's more famous works, but very interesting. Lot 152,
"Red Parable," is a 60-by-48-inch oil on canvas that
is dated 1964. It has also been consigned by the Toledo Museum
and has an estimate of $60,000 to $80,000. It sold for $232,000.
"Window," is a strong work by Philip Guston. An oil
on panel, it measures 30 by 39 1/8 inches and was created in 1969.
It has an estimate of $125,000 to $175,000. It sold for $288,000.
"Cup Cakes," is a classic still life by Wayne Thiebaud.
The 20-by-26-inch oil on canvas was created in 1961. It has an
estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It sold for $489,600.
Lot 240, "Territorial
Rites (Shiner," is a strong work by Robert Rauschenberg.
The acrylic, metal and hardware on stainless steel measures 61
by 52 1/2 inches. Executed in 1986, it has a modest estimate of
$60,000 to $80,000. It sold for $102,000.
Lot 115, "Untitled
(Woman)," is a very strong study of a woman with very full
red lips by Willem de Kooning (1904-1997). An oil on paper, it
measures 24 by 30 inches and was executed circa 1966. It has a
modest estimate of $120,000 to $180,000. It sold for $220,800.
Lot 123 is a very good and
impressive work by Arshile Gorky (1904-1948). A graphite and crayon
on paper, it measures 20 by 26 1/4 inches and is dated 1944. It
has an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. It sold for $142,400.
Lot 147, "Homage to
the Square: Park," is an excellent oil on masonite by Josef
Albers (1888-1976). Dated 1967, it measures 48 inches square.
It has an estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It sold for $254,400.
William Baziotes and Theodore
Stamos explored an organic abstraction of muted but richly saturated
colors. Lot 106, "Star Figure," is a fine example of
Baziotes's style. An oil on canvas, it measures 24 1/2 by 20 1/8
inches. Executed in 1948, it has an estimate of $25,000 to $35,000.
It sold for $21,600.
The auction has several
very fine but very small works.
Lot 102 is an exquisite
small watercolor and ink on paperboard by Richard Pousette-Dart.
Executed in 1946, it measures only 6 by 9 inches. It has a modest
estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. It sold for $21,600.
Lot 223 is an untitled work
by John Chamberlain that despite its miniscule size well captures
the artist's traditional monumentality created by working with
crushed automobile parts. This work is made of aluminum foil with
acrylic lacquer and polyester resin and measures only 5 by 5 3/4
inches by 5 1/2 inches. Executed in 1972, it has an estimate of
only $5,000 to $8,000. It sold for $18,000.
Lot 101 is an untitled black
ink and watercolor on paper by Ad Reinhardt (1913-1967). The work
only measures 5 by 6 3/4 inches and was executed circa 1943, but
is very very strong. It has a modest estimate of $6,000 to $8,000.
It sold for $20,400.
There are four excellent
small works by Franz Kline (1910-1962): Lots 109, 112, 114, and
Lot 109, "Lehigh V
Span," is a 10 1/4-by-16 1/2-inch oil and ink wash on paper
mounted on board. Executed circa 1959, it is superb and has an
estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It sold for $114,000.
Lot 112, "Untitled,"
is a strong and very vibrant and colorful colored pastel and brush
and black ink on paper. It measures 10 7/8 by 8 1/2 inches and
was executed circa 1952. It has an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000.
It failed to sell.
Lot 114 is entitled "Study"
and is an oil on paper mounted on paperboard that measures 10
1/2 by 8 inches. Dated 1953, it has an estimate of $30,000 to
$40,000. It sold for $36,000.
Lot 119 is a surprising
and very charming study of a cat. The brush and ink with crayon
on paper measures 5 1/4 by 4 7/8 inches. Executed circa 1947,
it has an estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. It sold for $18,000.
Another Kline is Lot 122,
"Untitled," a colorful oil on paper that measures 8
by 6 7/8 inches and was executed circa 1958. It has an estimate
of $40,000 to $60,000. It failed to sell.
There are two fine works
by Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988), Lots 173 and 233. The former, entitled
"Plus Equals Minus," is a gold plated bronze that measures
12 1/2 by 9 7/8 by 3 inches. Cast circa 1973, it has an modest
estimate of $6,000 to $8,000. It sold for $10,200.
Lot 233 is entitled "Target."
It is a black granite sculpture that measures 30 1/8 by 27 by
23 3/4 inches. Executed in 1984, it has an estimte of $120,000
to $180,000. It sold for $164,800.