This Fall at Christie’s, we have a veritable art history lesson in the new: from masters of hand-painted pop, to the word wizards of the conceptual and the delight in discovery that characterizes installation art.
Hand-selected by pioneering gallerist Leo Castelli in the early 1960s, Pop artists emerged from the great shadows of the abstract expressionist school championed by Clement Greenberg and beyond. I Can See the Whole Room!…And There’s Nobody in it!.. is one of the earliest comic book paintings by Roy Lichtenstein. Obscured within a private collection for over twenty years, this is the first time that this iconic work has been on view to the public since exchanging hands in the 1988 auction at Christie’s of the collection of Emily and Burton Tremaine. Truly hand painted, Lichtenstein has left the graphite lines of his preparatory sketch exposed on the white areas of the commercially primed canvas. Unlike Look Mickey! (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), painted just prior, this painting is the first example of the artist using a make-shift stencil to create his Ben-day dots. Using a hand-punctured aluminum sheet, Lichtenstein imparted the red pigment from the dry-bristled hairs of a paint brush through the narrow perforations. The end effect is areas of slight variation, with overlap and slightly wider spaced dots apparent across the area. The dots in the blue eye wholly hand applied, belie his desire to create a commercially printed look rendered by the artist’s hand. It goes without saying that he quickly mastered this effect; however, the status of this work as a primary example of the havoc on painting that his artistic license would soon produce is indeed incredible!
Similarly, Andy Warhol’s Four Campbell’s Soup Cans, is a strong example of how Pop artists created the appearance of the commercially produced paintings that would reinvent the art world. Using photographic negatives of a professional commercial photographer, Edward Wallowitch, Warhol projected the images of the ravaged and re-arranged soup cans onto his store-bought canvases and traced the outlines with a graphite pencil. He subsequently filled in the corresponding areas with a brightly hued paint layer- trace evidence of brushwork and exposed graphite outlines contorting the artist’s attempts to mask his hand in the end result.
Like its counterpart in the MoMA (chairs), One and Three Coats, 1965 by Joseph Kosuth is one of the first installations by Conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth to capitalize on the use of language in art. A breakthrough exploration in its time, the work perfectly embodies the spirit and goals of the Conceptual art practice. Immediately accessible and yet cleverly revealing,
Kosuth places a photo of a hanging coat and the print out of the definition of the word coat on either side of a…hanging coat. The visual nuances not to be disregarded (the typeface, selection of black coat and the seamless presentation of the printed paper cards all contribute to the pithy expression of this message) confer an egalitarian spirit of an often overlooked and misunderstood movement. A part of the Anton and Annick Herbert collection, the work (and the museum worthy installation of these pivotal pieces from Arte Povera, minimalism and conceptual art) is not to be missed on our new 20th floor exhibition spaces here at Rockefeller center!
Sometimes new can be controversial and inspire new levels of public response. Andreas Serrano’s infamous Piss Christ, 1987, created a media outcry when it was first displayed and has continued to incite protest and horror from multiple factions of society, locally and internationally. Facing physical assault on exhibition and inspiring a dramatic display of a movement for federal censorship in 1989, the photograph of a figurine of Christ and the crucifix submerged in a vitrine of the artist’s urine is certainly one of the artist’s most seminal works and best-known images. From an edition of four, the photograph in this season’s November Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale: Session I is an exclusive opportunity to see the sensational work in the flesh.
Christie’s November sales of Post-War and Contemporary Art including Works from the Collection of Peter Norton, New Day, and the Herbert Collection are on view November 4-8 at Christie’s 20 Rockefeller Plaza. The sales will take place November 8-9. www.christies.com