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Latin American Art

Sotheby's

7 PM, May 27, 2010 (Lots 1-63)
10AM, May 28, 2010 (Lots 76-245)

Sale 8642

"Cubo Abierto" by Matta

Lot 7, "Cubo Abierto," by Matta, oil on six panels laid down with wood and metal hinges, each 22 5/8 inches square, 1977
By Carter B. Horsley

This Spring 2010 auction of Latin American Art at Sotheby's is highlighted by several very fine works by Matta, an excellent Rufino Tamayo, several good paintings by Leonore Carrington, an important work by Wilfredo Lam and good works by Jesus Rafael Soto.

A great many works of Post-War and Contemporary Art have been multi-paneled and such an approach has too often been gimmicky and not aesthetically rewarding.  Lot 7, "Cuba Abierto," by Matta (1911-2002), however, is a wonderful exception.  The six panels all share a very brightly colored palette and size but otherwise do not convey a cohesive composition apart from tghe bright yellow celestial backgrounds.  More important is their configuration with the two "end" wings angled forward to suggest a surrounding concept. The way the panels are hinged is also admirable as they seem to float precisely in air.

The work was created in 1977 and each panel is 22 5/8 inches square.  It has a modest estimate of $200,000 to $250,000.  It failed to sell.

Untitled by Matta

Lot 18, Untitled, by Matta, oil on canvas, 36 1/2 by 28 3/4 inches, 1948

Lot 18 is a very sensational, untitled abstraction by Matta that is boldly colored and has a very rich and dynamic composition.  Created in 1948, it is an oil on canvas that measures 36 1/2 by 28 3/4 inches.  

Marysol Nieves, an independent curator in New York, provides the following brilliant commentary on this lot in the catalogue:

"The year 1948 marked a turbulent year for the peripatetic artist Matta who was unceremoniously expelled from the Surrealist group for abandoning abstraction and exploring an increasingly narrative and sociopolitical context in his work.  Thus, after a nearly decade long and highly productive sojourn in New York, Matta returned to Paris briefly only to encounter equal scorn from the artistic and social milieu that  had previously embaraced his unique vision and spirited lifstyle.  Indeed, at this juncture in Matta's life and career the artist had seemingly and irretrievably broken certain aesthetic and moral codes and in the process ruptured a number of significant relationships on both sides of the Atlantic.   Devastated by these events, Matta traveled to Chile and later that year settled in Rome where he would remain until 1955 before again returning to Paris.  Sans Titre was painted amidst these dramatic circumstances in 1948.  While it undoubtedly incoporates a number of elements that by the late 1940s had become hallmarks of Matta's unique style and approach to biomorphic abstraction, the conflation of the human body with the natural landscape coupled with the presence of overtly sexualized imagery unabashedly assert Matta's belief in the continuum of natural phenomena and his vision of the earth as an erotically-charged mass of energy in perpetural transportation and regeneration in keeping with the language of his biomorphic landscapes, here Matta evokes a diaphanous topography set against a gelatinous white background that suggests an infinite and ineffable cosmos.  Black orthogonal lines along with sensuous red mouontainous peaks and valleys create an illuision of three-dimensionality while an elongated, white female torso languidly spills across the full length of terrain mirroring its contours and producing a decidedly erotic effect.  Matta's volcanic imagery first employed in the early 1940s proceeding his trip to Mexico in 1941, reappear here in the guise of firey pulsatng bosom, while the nebulous skies above reveal a bright yellow piercing form that suggest the electrical discharge of lightning or the ejaculation of bodily fluids."

The lot has an extremely conservative estimate of $150,000 to $200,000.  It sold for $198,500 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article.

The total for the evening and day sales was $16,777,050.

Untitled by Matta

Lot 20, Untitled, by Matta, oil on canvas, 46 1/2 by 68 1/4 inches, 1951

Lot 20 is a large, untitled abstraction by Matta that demonstrates his wonderful high-tech imagination and strong palettes.  An oil on canvas, it measures 46 1/2 by 68 1/4 inches and was painted in 1951.  It has an estimate of $350,000 to $450,000.  It sold for $692,500.

Marysol Nieves, an independent curator in New York, provides the following brilliant commentary on this lot in the catalogue:

"...Matta's renewed contact with his Latin American roots during the 1940s, his relationship with the Chilean writers Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda, his growing admiration for the work of the Mexican muralists, Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Jose Clemente Orozco that spurred his own desire to work in a much larger scale, as well as his enthusiasm for collecting pre-Columbian and later Native American and tribal objects all informed his increased interest in developing a more humanistic and socio-politically engaged practice.  Thus by the late 1940s and 1950s, Matta's biomorphic landscapes and 'psychological morphologies' had evolved into ethereal and disturbing Kafkaesque worlds populated by tubular humanoids partially inspired by mythical totemic figures transformed into monstrous, insect-like beings or'mechanomorphs' victims of he dehumanizing effects of technology, social injustrice, and political corruption."

"Constelacion" by Gerzso

Lot 23, "Constelacion,"by Gunther Gerzso, bronze, 43 inches high, 1989

Lot 23 is a very impressive bronze sculpture by Gunther Gerzso (1915-2000) entitled "Constelacion."  It is 43 inches high and was created in 1989.  It has a modesgt estimate of $40,000 to $60,000.  It sold for $59,375.

"Combate" by Gerzso

Lot 124, "Combate," by Gunther Gerzso, oil on board laid down on masonite, 24 1/8 by 17 3/8 inches, 1946

Lot 124 is an oil on board laid down on masonite by Gunther Gerzso that is a far cry from his normal and beautiful geometric abstractions.  It is entitled "Combate" and measures 24 1/8 by 17 3/8 inches and was created in 1946 and looks like something that might hve painted with swirling gusto by David Alfaro Siqueiros.  It has an estimate of $60,000 to $80,000.  It failed to sell.

"Mensaje No. 13" by Goeritz

Lot 177, "Mensaje No. 13." by Mathias Goerwitz, clouage, tin and painted nails on wood, 17 3/4 by 14 1/2 inches, 1959

One of the most striking works in the auction is Lot 177, "Mensaje No.13," by Mathias Goerwitz (1915-1990).  A clouage, tin and painted nails on wood, it measures 17 3/4 by 14 1/2 inches and was created in 1959. It has an estimate of $25,000 to $35,000.  It sold for $22,500.

"The Ordeal of Owain" by Carrington

Lot 19, "The Ordeal of Owain," by Leonore Carrington, oil on canvas, 39 1/4 by 31 1/4 inches, 1959

Lot 19 is a large and very colorful oil on canvas by Leonore Carrington (b.1917) entitled "The Ordeal of Owain."  It measures 39 1/4 by 31 1/4 inches and was painted in 1959. It has an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000.  It sold for $722,500.
Salomon Grimberg of Dallas provided the following commentary on the Celtic derivation for this lot in the catalogue:

"Owain was the son of Gadwgan ap Bleddyn, a prince of Powis in Wales, and he was trouble.  Wherever he went, he created havoc, and even got away with murder.  Early on, Owain established a bad reputation for himself after killing the sons of a neighboring prince to steal their lands.  He went on to hurt many people and do much damage, but the venegeful are patient, and eventually he reaped what he sowed.  During a feast given by his father, he heard about the beautiful Nest.  Owain did not stop thinking about her until he could see her with his own eyes, and when he did, he was love struck.  That Nest was married to Gerald of Windsor and had children did not matter to him.  Determined to make her his, Owain began scheming to kidnap her.  One night, with the help of 15 cronies, he smiggled himself into Gerald's castle, abducting Nest and the children.  Gerald, barely escaping with his life, swore vengeance....The abduction was followed by one destructive event aftr another, as Owain's father found himself under sieghe and lost the fmaily lands to enemies within Wales as well as to King Henry of England.  Cadwagn regained, lost, and regained his land numerous times, but at last found himself  isolated and never at peace.  Owain, whether in exile in Ireland or back on the family estates, continued his trouble-making   He raided his uncle's lands, sold captives as slaves, and committed murder after mjurder, finally getting his own father killed as a victim of revenge.  As King Henry prevailed over the territories of Wales, Owain eventually joined with him and his forces.  Among these troops was Gerald of Windsor, the husband of Nest, who had been returned to him with two children by Owain.  Having never forgotten the insult, Gerald killed Owain.  In The Ordeal of Owain, Carrington records Owian's last moment on earth.  The Celts chose natural places for religious activity, especially for very specific ceremonies.  In a sacred grove used for druidical sacrifice, four women, three acolytes in attendance on the left and one priestess on the right, perform their ceremonial duties.  The blue acolyte, as a witness of grief weeps a pearl into a glass vessel, the red one, bringing light and warmth in the form of fire foretells sacrifice, and the golden one provides the vital breath.  The priestess is stirring a cauldron.  Among the Celts, these ceremonial cooking vessels were associated with rebirth and resurrection,  which is why the  priestess is adding an apple to the brew.  Fruit was consideried a source of the Origin, for its seeds prodcued life  The cauldron is balanced and warmed over a four-walled enclosure in which Owain, mounted on his horse, is starting to burn...."

Untitled by Carrington

Lot 4, Untitled, by Leonore Carrington, oil on canvas, 13 1/8 by 31 7/8 inches, 1964

In 1941, Leonore Carrington wrote a short story entitled "White Rabbits" in which the "most docile of animals" are turned into "ravenous meat-eating creatures.  This oil on canvas, which was created in 1964, apparently relates to her story.  It measures 13 1/8 by 31 7/8 inches.  It has an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000.  It sold for $146,500.

"Invocacion" by Varo

Lot 6, "Invocacion," by Remedios Varo, vinyl resin on board laid down on masonite, 19 5/8 by 17 3/4 inches, 1963

Lot 6 is a superb work by Remedios Varo (1908-1963) entitled "Invocacion."  A vinyl resin on board laid down on masonite, it measures 19 5/8 by 17 3/4 inches and was painted in 1963.  It was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1999.  As a child in Spain, Varo hid stories she would write beneath the stones of her bedroom floor and when she moved to Mexico she was influenced by some Italian Renaissance artists such as Andrea Mantegna.  This lot has an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000.  It failed to sell.

"Mujer Morada" by Tamayo

Lot 54, "Mujer Morada" by Rufino Tamayo, oil on canvas 51 1/4 by 38 1/2 inches, 1966

Lot 54 is an excellent oil on canvas by Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991) entitled "Mujer Morada."  It measures 51 1/4 by 38 1/2 inches and was painted in 1966.  It has been widely exhibited and published.  It has a modest estimate of $350,000 to $450,000.  It sold for $422,500.  The long-necked woman in the painting is, according to the catalogue entry, "immersed in a harmony of elegant and delicate chromatic contrasts that give way to a gutsy atmosphere where the exuberance of the gold and grays contrast with the pink, lavender, purple and red tones, evoking a garden where we find the rare beauty of this naked woman.
"Sur Les Traces (Transformation)" by Lam

Lot 17, "Sur Les Traces (Transformation)," by Wilfredo Lam, oil on canvas, 61 by 49 1/4 inches, 1945

The cover illustration of the catalogue for this auction is Lot 17, "Sur Les Traces (Transformation)," by Wilfredo Lam (1902-1982).  The lot has an ambitious estimate of $1,200,000 to $1,800,000.  It sold for $1,426,500. The catalogue entry notes that in the early 1940s, Lam moved away from "the fluid, mutli-referential forms of the earlier 1940s that flowed effortlessly one to the other - creating 'cadaver-exquise'-like hybrids of human, plant and animal entities - and the strong angular references to African and Pacific art forms have given way to shapes articulated by stippled brushwork that silhouettes their form.  The visual effect is one in which metaphysical forces emerge from the foliage of the Cuban landscape, barely perceptible except in Lam's delicate drawing on the canvas.  While here color has been drastically reduced to black or white."  Lam's work was shown at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York and he was close with leading figures at the time of the Abstract Expressionist movement.

"Totem" by Lam

Lot 30, "Totem," by Wilfredo Lam, oil on canvas, 35 5/8 by 23 1/2 inches, 1951

Fortunately, Lam returned to his former style of hybrid figures that are abstract amalgams of human, plant and animal life as in "Totem," a 1951 oil on canvas that measures 35 5/8 by 23 1/2 inches.  This lot has an estimate of $300,000 to $400,000.  It failed to sell.

"La Femme Magique" by Lam

Lot 22, "La Femme Magique," by Wilfredo Lam, oil on canvas, 31 5/8 by 23 3/4 inches,1951

An even more successful composition by Lam from the same year as Lot 30 is Lot 22, "La Femme Magique," an oil on canvas that measures 31 5/8 by 23 3/4 inches.  It has an estimate of $300,000 to $400,000.  It sold for $362,500.



"Le Reflet d'un Mirroir Violet" by Lam

Lot 143, "Le Reflet d'un Mirroir Violet," by Wilfredo Lam, oil and charcoal on canvas, 19 1/2 by 27 5/8 inches, 1974

Later in his career, Lam would experiment a bit in his use of colors as can be seen in Lot 143, "Le Reflet d'un Mirroir Violet,"a very good oil and charcoal on canvas thatmeasures 19 1.2 yt 27 5.8 iubches.  It was paintedin 1974.  It has an estimate of $70,000 to $90,000.  It failed to sell.

"Constructivo" by Torres-Garcia

Lot 29, "Constructivo," by Joaquin Torres-Garcia, oil on canvas, 29 1/8 by 39 inches, 1930

Lot 29 is a large and fine oil on canvas by Joaquin Torres-Garcia (1874-1949) that is notable for its rich palette and strong delineation.  It is entitled "Constructivo" and measures 29 1.8 byt 39 inches and was executed in 1930.  It has an estimate of $350,000 to $450,000.  It failed to sell.

"Untitled" by Merida

Lot 135, "Untitled," by Carlos Merida, duco and sand on paper on board, 20 1/2 by 15 inches, 1964

Lot 135 is a merry small abstraction that is reminiscent of the work of Joan Miro.  It is an untitled work by Carlos Mérida (1891-1984) and is duco and sand on paper on board.  It measures 20 1/2 by 15 inches and was  painted in 1964.  It is being sold by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which has been selling off excellent Latin American art for several years.  It has an estimate of $15,000 to $20,000.  It failed to sell.


"Femme nue alongee" by Botero

Lot 28, "Femme nue alongee," by Fernando Botero, bronze, 20 1/2 by 42 by 22 inches, numbered 2 of six, 2000

Lot 28 is a bronze sculpture by Fernando Botero of a naked woman that is numbered 2 of six.  It was created in 2000. It has an estimate of $450,000 to $650,000.  It failed to sell.


"Escritura Negra a La Izquierda" by Soto

Lot 42, "Escritura Negra a La Izquierda," by Jesus Rafael Soto, acrylic on wood with nylon string and painted metal, 48 by 51 by 18 3/4 inches, 1977

Lot 42 is an excellent wall  sculpture by Jesus Rafael Soto (1923-2005) entitled "Escritura Negra a La Izquierda."  An acrylic on wood with nylon string and painted metal, it measures 48 by 51 by 18 3/4 inches and was made in 1977.  It has an estimate of $300,000 to $400,000.  It sold for $422.500.


See The City Review article on the Spring 2010 Latin American Art auction at Christie's


See The City Review article on the Fall 2009 Latin American Art auction at Christie's


See The City Review article on the Fall 2009 Latin American Art Auction at Sotheby's


See The City Review article on the Spring 2009 Latin American Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2008 Latin American Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2008 Latin American Art auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2008 Latin American Art auction at Sotheby's


See The City Review article on the Spring 2008 Latin American Art auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2007 Latin American Art auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2007 Latin American Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2007 Latin American Art auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2006 Latin American Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2006 Latin American Art auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2005 Latin American Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2005 Latin American Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2005 Latin American Art auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2004 Latin American Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review Article on the Spring 2004 Latin American Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2003 Latin American Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2003 Latin American Art auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2003 Latin American Art auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2003 Latin American Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2002 Latin American Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2002 Latin American Art auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2002 Latin American Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2002 Latin American Art auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2001 Latin American Art evening auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the November 19, 2001 Latin American Art evening auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Latin American Art evening Auction at Sotheby's in the spring of 2001

See The City Review article on the Latin American Art evening auction at Christie's, May 30, 2001


See The City Review article on the Spring 2000 Latin American Art auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2000 Latin American Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 1999 Latin American Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring, 1999 Latin American Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on The Latin American Sale at Christie's in New York in June, 1999

 

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