By Carter B. Horsley
No serious collectors
of Post-War art can afford to miss the day sales that may not
have the glamour of the evening sales but boast a much larger
and usually less expensive selection of works that invariably
include some really good art.
This day auction is no exception.
Highlights include three stunning works by
Hans Hofmann (1880-1966), two good early and late works by Willem
de Kooning (1904-1997), a fine William Baziotes (1912-1963), a
strong Arshile Gorky (1904-1948) drawing, two excellent paintings
by Joan Mitchell (1926-1992), a good painting by Roy Lichtenstein
(1923-1997), two pleasant works by Red Grooms (b. 1937), a vibrant
and colorful painting by Sam Francis (1924-1997), a good portrait
by Andy Warhol ((1928-1987), several works by Gerhard Richter
(b. 1932), a good painting by James Rosenquist (b. 1933), a good
Kumi Sugai (1919-1996) painting, a good paiting by Maria Helena
Viera Da Silva (1908-1992), a handsome sculpture by Lynn Chadwick
(b. 1914), an excellent sculpture by Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988),
and a pleasant sculpture by George Rickey (b. 1907).
The Hans Hofmann works are particularly outstanding
as good works by this important teacher and founder of the New
York School of Abstract Expressionism rarely appear on the market.
The most exciting Hofmann work, shown at the
top of this article, is Lot 217, "Nocturn," a 60-by-52-inch
oil on canvas, signed and dated 1962. It has a very conservative
estimate of $80,000 to $120,000 and is the best work in this auction.
This is the kind of painting one hoped Clyfford Still would have
eventually gotten into. It sold for $143,500 which includes
the buyer's premium as do all results in this article.
The catalogue includes the following commentary:
"Nocturn is a wonderful example
of Hofmann's late paintings that digress from the tight linearity
of his slab paintings. Hofmann's sense of freedom is expressed
in the way in which the paint was densely applied layer upon layer;
background concentrated forms in the center contrast with a brilliant
Matisssean blue and hove in space. As the title of the painting
suggests, Hofmann is describing a natural phenomenon of nightfall
and alluding to its elegiac and somber atmosphere
had often stated that his painting process is linked, and could
be understood in relation to the larger forces of human creativity
and the mystical cosmos. His desire to view things in an all-encompassing
manner is demonstrated in a work such as the present painting."
This work should be ideally be hung next to
a large Rothko, a large Franz Kline, a large Still and one of
Robert Motherwell's large elegy paintings. (A version of "Elegy
to the Spanish Republic" by Motherwell (1915-1991) is offered
as lot 103, a very strong but small india ink and brush on yellow
lined paper, 7 3/4 by 12 1/4 inches, painted circa 1958, with
a conservative estimate of $18,000 to $25,000. It sold for
$23,325.) The Hofmann "Nocturn" would stand out
admirably in such a group. What is particularly wonderful in this
work are the short vertical strokes of bright green near the center,
the thin open rectangle of white, the smear of deep blue and the
forceful red at the bottom. This work is a masterpiece of Abstract
Expressionism that is resonant, vibrant, and forceful, and not
a placid or bland reverie.
Lot 105, "Landscape," is a 24-by-30-inch
oil on panel that Hofmann painted in 1941 and it is a very dynamic
work that has quite remarkable structure and full coverage of
the panel with a very broad palette for Hofmann, who is style
is usually characterized by large blocks of color with a few painterly
flourishes. Here there are swirling forms and angular dark highlights
and great liveliness. The unsigned lot has a very conservative
estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for $84,600.
Lot 107 is a striking monochrome oil on canvas
by Hofmann that measures 50 1/4 by 48 1/3 inches and was executed
in 1949. It is an extremely tantalizing composition with finely
drawn thin outlines and wonderful dynamics. Entitled "Germania
II," the signed work has a very conservative estimate of
$20,000 to $30,000 and one can almost perceive a "goose-step"
form and the eroding face of an onlooker. It sold for $39,950.
Despite its very bold areas of white, this work has a delicacy
not often found in Hofmann's works.
Several other works in the auction would make
nice companion pieces to the Hofmanns. Lot 221, "Hatchery
(Shiner)," a 49-inch-square acrylic and silkscreen inks on
stainless steel, by Robert Rauschenberg (b. 1925) is similar temperamentally
with "Nocturn," Lot 216. The Rauschenberg was executed
in 1987 and has a conservative estimate of $30,000 to $40,000.
It sold for $61,100.
Lot 223, "Waxahachie," a 61-by-49-inch
oil on canvas by Theodoros Stamos (b. 1922) could be another "Nocturn"
companion piece. It was painted in 1960 and has a very conservative
estimate of $10,000 to $15,000. It sold for $22,325.
Lot 106, "Choir," by Jack Tworkov
(1900-1982) could be an interesting "mate" to Hofmann's
"Germania II" although it consists of red, yellow and
blue strokes against a white background, much in the manner of
some of the very late work of de Kooning. The Tworkov measures
45 1/8 by 41 7/8 inches and was painted in 1951, two years after
"Germania II." It has an estimate of $35,000 to $45,000.
It sold for $42,300. In the catalogue it is placed on the
page facing "Germania II," and the auction houses are
to be congratulated for their organization in catalogues of paintings
that are very similar in subject, or style, rather than putting
all the works of an individual artist in one section.
Lot 123, "Bibliothèque," by
Maria Helena Viera Da Silva, a 28 1/2-by-36-inch oil on burlap,
executed in 1952, is a very rich and almost pulsating, grid of
yellows and blues and reds that would be fine "mate"
for Hofmann's "Landscape." Lot 123 has an estimate of
$100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $149,000. The catalogue
notes that the artist "created visual labyrinths which draw
the viewer's gaze on a meandering path with an infinite number
of entrances, exits, and quite often, an equal number of dead-ends
which spur one to continue the intellectual journey." "Rich
in color with tightly woven brushstrokes," the catalogue
continued, "the present works offers an affront to three-dimensionality
brick-like pattern consumes space and defies the conventions of
foreground and background."
Lot 218, "Woman," by de Kooning,
is one of the more "accessible" works in this celebrated
series that is noted for the extreme distortion, abstraction and
overwhelming of the image of a woman with splashy bright colors
and wild brushwork. This 23 3/4-by-19-inch oil on vellum was executed
in 1966 and the woman's figure stands out in dark green outline
through a orange and red haze of overpainting. The catalogue notes
that the woman in this figure is "loose-limbed and fanciful"
and that the "choice of vellum as a support allows him further
means to collapse the space between the figure and background,
and to infuse the composition with light which remained a constant
source of inspiration for him." The lot has a conservative
estimate of $90,000 to $120,000. It sold for $105,000.
A more amorphous and typical de Kooning "Woman"
is Lot 149, entitled "Paper Tigress," a 19-by-11 1/8-inch
oil on paper towellaid down on cardboard laid down on panel. Painted
in 1964, it has been consigned by the Sydney and Frances Lewis
Art Trust Collection and has a conservative estimate of $100,000
to $150,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 117, "Untitled," by Arshile Gorky
is a very fine pencil and colored wax crayons on paper, which
measures 18 by 24 inches. Drawn in 1945, it has an estimate of
$100,000 to $150,000. It failed to sell.
"Unmistakably Gorky," the catalogue
observes, "the present drawing incorporates many elements
from the artist's vocabulary - a cast of imaginary biomorphic
shapes and identifiable objects from the real world. A pair of
bird's legs, a shoehorn, and a nipple intermingle with undecipherable
columns, funnels and curved lines. In their variety and ambiguity
the wondrous shapes and figures of this drawing capture the dynamic
combination of the artist's powers of imagination and observation."
Lot 219, "Simple," is a very strong
and excellent oil on canvas, 76 1/2 by 44 1/2 inches, by Joan
Mitchell that was painted in 1990 and has an estimate of $100,000
to $150,000. It sold for $248,000. It is a very handsome
and painterly work with its totemic verticality and rich coloration.
Lot 148, "Untitled," is a very good oil on canvas, 39
by 33 inches, that Mitchell painted in 1960. The painting has
vigorous brushwork with a central broad black line surrounded
by many green and deep red strokes against a white background,
creating a fine spatial environment for the abstract but very
dynamic strokes to float. It has a conservative estimate of $90,000
to $120,000. It sold for $160,000. Mitchell's painting
is frenetic in comparison with the orderly and formal abstract
painting by Kumai Sugai, Lot 120, "Ko-Oni," that was
executed in 1956, The 48 3/4-by-38 1/4-inch oil on canvas combines
the aesthetics of Mark Rothko, Adolph Gottlieb, William Baziotes
and the East. The fine work has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000.
It sold for $47,000.
Lot 112, "Figures in the Night,"
is a very powerful but subtle oil on canvas, 28 1/4 by 24 inches,
by Baziotes (1912-1963) that was executed in 1947. It has a modest
estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It failed to sell. Baziotes
and Stamos remain significantly undervalued in the art market.
Lot 237, "Pylon," by Isamu Noguchi,
galvanized steel, 114 inches high, shown above, was executed in
1981 and is one of an edition of 18 plus six artist's proofs.
The striking and subtle work has an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000.
It sold for $47,000.
Lot 155, "Two Paintings, Sleeping Muse,"
by Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997), is a good, almost stately collage
and gouache on paper, which was executed in 1983 and has an estimate
of $280,000 to $320,000. It sold for $589,000.
Lot 175, "Judith Green," by Andy
Warhol, synthetic polymer and silkscreen inks on canvas, 20 by
16 inches, was executed in 1963 and has an estimate of $100,000
to $150,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 150, "Tube," by James Rosenquist
(b.1933), oil on circular canvas, 60 3/4 inches in diameter, was
painted in 1961. A quite striking and unusual work by Rosenquist,
it has an estimate of $70,000 to $90,000 and was consigned by
the Sydney and Frances Lewis Art Trust Collection. It sold
The auction has two nice lots
by Red Grooms (b. 1937), Lots 163, "Eighth Avenue Snow Scene,"
and 164, "Maine Room." The wall reliefs of wood, paper
and cardboard in Plexiglas boxes are typical, albeit not sensational
examples of the work of this most humorous and inventive artist.
Each lot has an estimate of $18,000 to $25,000. Each lot sold