WOW! – Work of the Week – James Rosenquist – Sky Hole, from Welcome to the Water Planet





James Rosenquist
Sky Hole, from Welcome to the Water Planet
1989
Pressed Paper Pulp in colors wth lithographic collage on Rives BFK and TGL handmade paper
106 x 65 in.
Edition of 56
Pencil signed, dated, titled and numbered

About the work:
“I’m the one who gave steroids to Pop art”
James Rosenquist
James Rosenquist’s larger than life brand of Pop is not the literal Pop Art of Warhol, Lichtenstein or Indiana. Rosenquist’s work, seemingly irrational owed a debt to Surrealism through large-scale, mysterious pictorial combinations. As his works evolved, he continued to employ a juxtaposition of elements and materials, creating complex compositions as a means of exploring design and narrative. His work from the 1980s through to the end of his career is still on steroids – vibrantly colorful, abstract compositions that explore perceptions of time and space, in addition to our environment.
In the mid-1970s, Rosenquist moved his studio from Manhattan to Aripeka, Florida where his aesthetic was affected by the flora and fauna of his new surroundings. His interests shifted from the culture of consumerism to an exploration of humankind’s place in the environment. The lusher paintings of the ’80s suit their time with their candied colors. Rosenquist, in short, is one of the few former pop artists whose work continues unabatedly to have something to say. However, unlike most political art, Rosenquist’s work seems non-polemical at first, and that is the source of its power.
This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is from the series Welcome to the Water Planet – Sky Hole.
The series came to be after Ken Tyler of Tyler Graphics Ltd (TGL) invited Rosenquist to work at his new purpose-built workshop at Mount Kisco in upstate New York. Rosenquist, who started his career as a billboard artist, was always drawn to larger than life size compositions, accepted the offer when Tyler promised him that he would provide handmade paper as big as the artist could imagine. For the project, Tyler devised a huge deckle box to make hand-made papers about 60 by 120 inches, including a giant printing press for lithography and etching measuring 120 by 240 inches.
Tyler had a deep seeded interest in hand-made papers and started experimenting with Pulp Paper projects in the 70’s, working on projects with Rauschenberg, Kelly and Hockney, among others, and by the time work started with Rosenquist, he had brought paper works to new heights in terms of scale, color and texture.
This blended perfectly with James Rosenquist’s desire to develop his idea of an image of slow-heating popcorn tied together with his concerns about the state of planet Earth – the only water planet known in existence in the universe at the time. Rosenquist included imagery that evoked the colorful and sensual riches of the earth and brilliant flora from Florida, set within a wondrous star-lit universe. ‘We all live on the water planet’, the artist stated in an interview. Rosenquist’s series of paper works were intended to act both as a celebration and a warning to what might happen to our planet.
The first idea that came to form for Sky Hole was birds of paradise approaching the water planet. The image was deconstructed into its component parts, made with curved lines of cross-hatching that would then be printed in color lithography. These lithographic elements form a collage that is laid on the brilliantly colored paper pulp sheet. The separate colors were made by filling different moulds with paper pulp placed on top of the large sheets of handmade paper. The method, was one of trial and error.
At the initial stages of the project, the method of using metal moulds, or ‘cookie cutters’, resulted in problems with translating Rosenquist’s designs into paper form due to inconsistencies of the pulp paper. But, always seeking to experiment and innovate, Tyler was able to perfect the system while Rosenquist developed the templates for each piece. For the large areas of graded color, impossible to achieve using mould shapes, Tyler proposed the use of a spray gun, used for applying stucco to walls in houses, which could spray the gradations of color across the pulp on which the lithographic elements were collaged. The technique was successful and resulted in a look of apparent spontaneity and effortlessness, contrary to the hours of preparation and a technique born of experimentation.
The collaboration between the artist and master printmaker created revolutionary works, Rosenquist, himself noting that ‘The wonderful thing about paper pulp is the color. If you take a magnifying glass, you’ll see a little fuzz rising like smoke off the surface of this handmade paper – like doing giant watercolors and letting this watercolor seep together at the perfect moment …’

WOW! – Work of the Week – Roy Lichtenstein – Forms in Space





Roy Lichtenstein
Forms in Space
1985
Screenprint on Rives BFK paper
52 x 35 3/4 in.
Edition of 125
Pencil signed and numbered
About the work:
 “I’m interested in portraying a sort of antisensibility that pervades society,”
Roy Lichtenstein was a pop artist whose works, in a style derived from comic strips, portray the trivialization of culture endemic in contemporary American life. Using bright, strident colors and techniques borrowed from the printing industry, he ironically incorporates mass-produced emotions and objects into highly sophisticated references to art history
Although, in the early 1960s, Lichtenstein was often casually accused of merely copying his pictures from cartoons, his method involved some considerable alteration of the source images. The extent of those changes, and the artist’s rationale for introducing them, has long been central to discussions of his work, as it would seem to indicate whether he was interested above all in producing pleasing, artistic compositions, or in shocking his viewers with the garish impact of popular culture.
This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is an image of one of the most iconic symbols of the world. The American flag, to this day, carries a host of connotations and meanings that shift from individual to individual, making it the ideal subject for artists to interpret.
Jasper Johns was the first American artist to present viewers with the dichotomies embedded in the American flag, and over the years, others have followed suit, notably Roy Lichtenstein.
“Forms in Space” by Lichtenstein’s example of the American flag, that leaves open it’s interpretation to the viewer. Although it is bears an obvious resemblance to the American flag, the artist has toyed subtly with its formal makeup, slanting and upping the number of stripes and inverting the colors used in the upper left corner, replacing the flag’s iconic white stars with rows of simple blue ben-day dots placed against a white background. Despite these slight alterations, the blocks of uniform color and flat surface planes make the composition an easy one to take in at first glance, but the image could easily be part of a larger narrative.
It is clear that a statement is being made. While still expertly balanced in form and color, the elimination of certain details and addition of others are important in unifying Lichtenstein’s interpretation of the flag, providing it with formal structure. There remains, however, an element of agitation. The lines of the flag, usually horizontal are set at an angle; implying movement. When observing the work, an optical illusion occurs, and the flag seems to be stretching outward, expanding, inviting each of us to be more socially and politically aware.
Always experimenting with the boundaries of high and low art, this work exemplifies but also interrupts the fast paced consumption of the mass media imagery. The viewer is asked to to look closer and consider what is being represented. The statement that life reflects art and art reflects life rings true when considering Lichtenstein’s use of the most powerful American symbol. His inspiration is drawn from the real, everyday world.

WOW! – Work of the Week – Sol LeWitt – Distorted Cubes #2





Sol LeWitt
Distorted Cubes #2
2001
Linocut on Somerset Velvet paper
43 3/4 x 42 1/4 in.
Edition of 50
Pencil signed and numbered
About the work:
Beginning in the 1960s and early 1970s, Sol LeWitt designed elaborate units of cubes, exploring all possible combinations and permutations of the three-dimensional shape. He once noted, “The most interesting characteristic of the cube is that it is relatively uninteresting. It is best used as a basic unit for any more elaborate function.”
Sol LeWitt is credited with leading the Minimalist movement as a response to the intuitive works of the abstract expressionists, and as a progression of postmodernism. His calculated, studied works brought to the forefront medium and form. With this simple artistic vocabulary of lines and cubes, LeWitt made use of a grid system to create an art free of iconographic associations. It was the ideas that underline and inform that held the content of his work. LeWitt created a new art-form free of narrative and descriptive elements.
Printmaking was an ideal tool for him to experiment his conceptual strategies. His print projects evolved from rigorous studies of straight line and color. Which brings us to this week’s WORK OF THE WEEK! WOW!, Distorted Cubes #2
Distorted Cubes #2 is a prime example of LeWitt’s interest in the line, cubes and seriality. LeWitt experiments with the illusion of volume on a two-dimensional surface. The cubes are examined through the lens of physical space. Each one highlighted by different perspectives of distance, height and lighting.
Each of the 21 distorted cubes is placed within one delineated square box, making up an uneven grid. The grid’s appeal lies in that it can extend in all directions infinitely into a space beyond the frame, but it also functions as a frame, which implies structure. The grid is modern through its non-decorative structure and order but also in its non-narrative qualities.
Sol Lewitt played a pivotal role driving art into a new and unchartered direction. His focus on space, form, line, volume, and color, created the Minimalist Movement. Along with other artists such as Frank Stella, and Ellsworth Kelly, the minimalists achieved a new philosophy in art theory, that although reactive to abstract expressionism, furthered the progression of art breaking away from traditional, representational art.

WOW! – Work of the Week – Alex Katz – Laura 1





Alex Katz
Laura 1
2017
Archival pigment inks on Crane Museo Max 365 gsm fine art paper
46 x 30 1/2 in.
Edition of 100
Pencil signed and numbered

About the work:

Portraits are one of the great subjects of Alex Katz’s oeuvre. With his signature approach and style, he transforms his circle of family, friends and New York society figures into unforgettable icons. His works are defined by their flatness of color and form, their economy of line, and cool yet seductive emotional detachment. 

Katz is the ultimate master of the flat style. His works may appear simple, but rather they are complex studies of color and shading. A student of color theory, he expertly captures depth and dimension with contrasting and complimentary hues like no other artist. 

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is one of Katz’s most recent portraits, Laura 1. This work is the portrait of Laura Halzack, prima ballerina of the Paul Taylor Dance Company based in New York City. Alex Katz met Laura through Paul Taylor with whom he has collaborated with on over a dozen set and costume designs since 1960. 

Laura, as many of Katz’s portrait subjects is presented without context. In the compressed visual plane, she is placed against a background of a single dark hue, which contrasts with the delicate peach tone of her skin. No additional narrative is provided other than her first name. This lack of narrative heightens the enigmatic qualities of the dancer, and allows Laura to exist in and of herself. 

Influenced by film, television and billboard advertising, the composition of Laura 1 is like a cinematic close-up. The cropped view of the dancer’s profile is perfectly balanced with the black background. The work is cropped in a way that it seems Katz has captured a sincere, temporal moment, which he indeed has, given the ephemeral nature of dance. 

Katz’s distinction as an artist lies in the fascinating reductive, flat style. His mastery of color and minimalism is timeless. His portraits, also have a distinctive quality in that he always represents the society of which he is a part of and, as a whole, can almost be experienced as a family photo album. 

WOW! – Work of the Week – Jim Dine – Watercolored by Jim





Jim Dine
Watercolored by Jim
2015
Watercolor and copperplate etching
42 x 56 1/2 in.
Edition of 6 unique hand-painted pieces
Pencil signed, dated, titled and numbered

About the work:

During the early 1960s, with Pop Art in full swing, one of its earliest champions, Jim Dine, had already moved away from its ideas and was striking out on his own. Marked by a compulsive repetition of subject matter yet tempered with humanity and warmth, the oeuvre that the artist has produced over the last 60 years forms one of the most original bodies of work in 20th- and 21st-century art.

Among his iconic images, hearts are prominently featured. Dine has laid undisputed claim to the simple shape, suggesting boundless possibilities endowed with complex meaning. While repetition was a common motif in Pop Art, Dine employed it to a very different end. Pop was playing with art as mass culture while Dine was imposing a personal, lyrical individualism into his faceless forms. A self-described romantic artist, Dine has embraced the heart as a template through which he could explore relationships of color, texture, and composition. It is a subject of his work that is invested with rich personal significance.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Watercolored by Jim

Dine painted his first heart in 1966, developed as a form of self-portraiture while he went through psychoanalytical treatment. The heart-themed works are defined by introspection and emotional vigor, continuously reinvented through the artist’s tactile brushwork, and inventive printmaking techniques. Dine uses the symbolism of the heart for its obvious connection to the strong emotions of love, but also for its values as a geometric framework within which dynamic color relationships and textures can be explored. 

The powerful presence of the two hearts in Watercolored by Jim suggests human interaction, the smoky texture is combined with soft fields of watered-down color suggest a complex delicacy. Despite its lightness, it is strong work, as Dine’s expressionist energy is freed from the form. The colors vibrate against one another, fill and bleed beyond the hearts outlines in an organic blending into dense layers. 

Dine has a distinct approach to printmaking, it provides him with an opportunity to focus his creative energy on small editions of works that are often experimental in technique and finished by hand. Watercolored by Jim is an edition of 6 unique hand-painted works with watercolor (hence the title) in which only the black lines are printed through copperplate etching. 

The work is a tour de force of Dine’s experimentation with innovative monotype and other printmaking techniques. The traditional etching techniques combined with hand-applied details result in this distinctive work that bridges printmaking and painting.

With this painterly work, Dine continues to reinvent the form. The artist’s assertive brushwork is heightened by a soft texture endowing one of his most iconic images with fresh and exciting energy.

WOW! – Work of the Week – Jasper Johns – Device





Jasper Johns
Device
1971-72
Lithograph
33 1/2 x 29 in.
Edition of 62
Pencil signed, dated and numbered

About the work:

“I tend to like things that already exist.” Jasper Johns

Jasper Johns is the world’s most critically acclaimed living artist. His work bridges the immediate post-World War II modernist trends of Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism with subsequent movements of Pop art, Minimalism, and Conceptual art. 

Johns was ushered into the New York art scene in 1953, when he met Robert Rauschenberg. The two artists shared an intense relationship, both romantic and artistic, from 1954 to 1961. They had neighboring studio spaces and deeply influenced each other’s artwork, exchanging ideas and techniques that would allow them to break from Abstract Expressionism. Their relationship would lead to Johns’ discovery by famed art dealer Leo Castelli, who, while visiting Rauschenberg’s studio met Johns and saw his work. Castelli offered the young Jasper Johns his first solo show on the spot. It was during his first exhibition that Alfred Barr, the founding director of the MoMA, purchased a number pieces that were on display, instantly making Jasper Johns a force in the art world.

Johns’ breakthrough style was to appropriate popular iconography in his works with a rich treatment of  the surface as lush and painterly. By representing common objects and images in the realm of fine art, Johns broke down the boundaries traditionally separating fine art and everyday life. However, rather than direct representation or abstraction, Johns made signs, like flags and targets, iconic images in his works. The “things the mind already knows” were his ideal subject because of the varied meanings each carried with it. This would lay the foundation for the Pop art movement’s aesthetic embrace of commodity culture, paving the path for Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist among many, many other post-war artists. 

While Johns continued to produce paintings that incorporated Abstract Expressionism’s gestures and color blocking, he shifted his focus from the finished image to the concept behind it. His process, which he believed to be the actual art, took on greater importance. The artist made a seamless transition into print making. For Johns, printmaking was a medium that encouraged experimentation through the ease with which it allowed for repeat endeavors. His innovations in screen printing, lithography, and etching revolutionized the field. 

As the Pop art movement grew around him, Johns left behind the colorful works filled with familiar gestures and images and turned to a darker palette. Some critics attribute the shift away from color and toward the grays, blacks, and whites that dominate many of his canvases from the early 1960s to the rocky end of his relationship with Rauschenberg. 

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Jasper Johns’ Device.

Created in 1971-72, Device masterfully plays with different tones of grey, white and beige. The works that use what Johns called “the device,” were made from two stretcher bars attached to a canvas frame with butterfly screws, creating a mechanical arm, that would be used to scrape the paint on the surface in a circular shape. All of these elements from the “real” world undercut the traditional idea of a painting as an illusion. The development of the device theme in Johns’ work progressed to incorporate other themes, such as the abundant use of text. His techniques stress conscious control rather than spontaneity.

Over the past fifty years Johns has created a body of rich and complex work. His rigorous attention to the themes of popular imagery and abstraction has set the standards for American art. Constantly challenging the technical possibilities of printmaking, Johns laid the groundwork for a wide range of experimental artists that came after him.

WOW! – Work of the Week – Andy Warhol – The Shadow





Andy Warhol
The Shadow, from Myths (FS II.267)
1981
Screenprint on Lenox Museum Board
38 x 38 in.
Edition of 200
Pencil signed and numbered

About the work:

As a keen observer of the emergence of America as the global superpower it is today, Andy Warhol captured deep American truths and fantasies. “Everybody has their own America, and then they have pieces of a fantasy America that they think is out there but they can’t see,” he once observed. Nowhere is this national fantasy clearer than in Warhol’s Myths Series of 1981.

The suite, composed of 10 iconic representations of recognizable figures of American film, history and culture encompass Warhol’s own life and the magic of 20th century American Pop Culture, or American Mythology. The term ‘Mythology’ (or ‘Myth’) often-times evokes the collected stories of the Ancient Greeks and Romans, however, Mythology is a feature of every culture. The collection of myths of any society defines its spirit and soul. 

In the Myths Series, Warhol selected a range of 10 uniquely American personas, from Santa Claus to Uncle Sam, each artwork revealing facets of Warhol’s personality and desires. As a sick child, he was inspired by the duality of Clark Kent/Superman and famously wanted to be regarded as strong an american symbol as Mickey Mouse. Warhol so ardently wanted to be a part of American Mythology that he used his own self-portrait to take on the role of one of the characters in the Myths suite. Overtly self-referential, the artist placed himself among his idols.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is The Shadow, from Myths, in which Andy Warhol used his own face to personify a fictional American icon.

While many of the referenced characters of the suite require no introduction, today ‘The Shadow’ is a more niche symbol of American Pop Culture. ‘The Shadow’ was a fictional pulp-novel character of the 1930’s, a crime-fighting hero of Warhol’s childhood. He wore a wide-brimmed black hat and a black, crimson-lined cloak with an upturned collar over a standard black business suit.

The Shadow - Pulp NovelThe popular series was also adapted into a Radio Show and a comic strip during Warhol’s lifetime.

Shadow - Radio Broad Cast poster The Shadow Comic Strip

The portrait is based on a photograph of Warhol as the fictional character and although he doesn’t wear The Shadow’s black cloak or broad-rimmed hat, the crimson lighting illuminating Warhol’s face, which references the red lining of The Shadow’s cloak, causes a strong shadow to be cast of his profile in the background. While peering at the viewer, Andy Warhol crafts a personification of himself masquerading as a hero. 

Andy Warhol exhibited an unerring sense for the powerful motifs of his time – contemporary images that capture the modern imagination as completely as the gods and goddesses of ancient mythology once did. The images presented in Myths are nostalgic representations of America, each theatrically reflecting American fantasies, hopes, fears and dreams. Warhol gives these already established icons his signature pop-style treatment, inserting his own image into the narrative of pop culture. 

The Shadow from Myths is a screenprint on Lenox Museum board with Diamond Dust covering the full sheet. The Diamond Dust, heavily applied, adds a luster to the work, but also lends to its mysteriousness, thus accentuating The Shadow. It its a very impressive work.

WOW! – Work of the Week – Frank Stella – Benjamin Moore Series





Frank Stella
Hampton Roads, from Benjamin Moore
1972
Lithograph
16 x 22 in.
Edition of 100
Pencil signed and numbered
Frank Stella
Palmito Ranch, from Benjamin Moore
1972
Lithograph
16 x 22 in.
Edition of 100
​Pencil signed and numbered

About the work:

Frank Stella is one of the most highly regarded post-war American artists still working today. He is a rule-breaker, interested in furthering the History of Art by constantly and deliberately taking us down new paths. 

Upon moving to New York after his studies at Princeton, Stella was first inspired by the Abstract Expressionists, but also by the ‘flat’ works of Barnett Newman. It was however, the paintings of Jasper Johns, exhibited at Leo Castelli’s famed gallery in 1958, that lead Stella to start using his now-trademark stripes as a compositional tool. The controlled minimalist works are among his most recognizable. Stella didn’t change the course of Art History simply through his study and use of a radically different style, he also approached diverse materials in a revolutionary way. 

Frank Stella’s first experience in painting was re-coating houses and boats, and he would continue to paint houses after his move to NY to make ends meet. Over the course of his 60-plus-year career, Stella would regularly revisit unmixed house and car paint in addition to using house-painter brushes. Stella’s process was documented in Hollis Frampton’s photo essay “The Secret World of Frank Stella” which showed the artist’s approach to canvas as being the same as he would a house – filling a space with increasingly proximate concentric lines. In his striped works, Frank Stella never used masking tape. He would never even measure out the lines, rather the works are free-hand.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is the Benjamin Moore Series. This series is one of Stella’s most iconic. Andy Warhol recognized the genius of Stella and purchased the complete set of originals himself.

All the titles of Stella’s works are significant. The Benjamin Moore Series makes reference to the type and brand of paint that was used in the creation of the works. The use of store-bought house paints is significant in that it roots his art in the post-war commodity culture. In naming the series after a company, he also explored the rise of advertising and branding. The titles of each individual piece are also important to note – they are all named after historical battles fought during the Civil War. 

The two works featured at Gregg Shienbaum Fine Art are Palmito Ranch and Hampton Roads. Both battles were of great significance. The Battle of Hampton Roads, often called either the Battle of the Monitor and Merrimack or the Battle of Ironclads, fought on March 9, 1862, was the most important naval battle of the Civil War from the perspective of naval development. It was History’s first duel between ironclad warships. The Battle of Palmito Ranch is regarded as the final battle of the war, fought May 12 and 13, 1865, on the banks of the Rio Grande in Texas. Despite that Robert Lee had surrendered a month prior to Ulysses Grant, the attack was ordered on the Confederate Army for unknown reasons. Anecdotes suggest that Union Colonel Theodore Barrett wanted to see combat before the end of the war. The names of Stella’s works are significant, loading abstract images with meaning. The complete series is a historical narrative composed of abstract works. 

The works in the series are among Stella’s most reductive compositions. It is the formal rather than the thematic matter that Stella engages in. The set plays with maze-like patterns, simple diagonals,  and understated and stacked compositions, where the painted line creates an even, horizontal rhythm. Stella shows us the environment of the battles of the Civil War with paint straight from a can – intense and flat. The saturated palette, measured proportions, and glowing presence are at once immediately vibrant and classically timeless.

As Adam D. Weinberg, director of the Whitney has said “Frank is a radical innovator who has, from the beginning, absorbed the lessons of art history and then remade the world on his own artistic terms. He is a singular American master.”

WOW! – Work of the Week – Robert Indiana – Liberty ’76





Robert Indiana
Liberty ’76
1974-75
Screenprint
39 7/8 x 36 in.
Edition of 10 Artist Proofs (A.P.)
Pencil signed, dated and numbered

About the work:

“The American dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”
– James Truslow Adams, 1931

The July 4th, 1776, American Declaration of Independence proclaims that “all men are created equal” with the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This founding document, outlining the set of ideals of our nation has been the basis of the national ethos known as The American Dream. This Dream has attracted people from all over the world, lured by the promise of a better way of life, and is deeply rooted in the collective psyche of the American population. 

Many artists have been inspired by this great dream, however, Robert Indiana distinguishes himself from his peers through a highly original body of work that explores this American Identity. He addresses important social and political issues, incorporating profound historical and literary references into his works. This is why, in 1974, Stephen Lion, an arts and design consultant, approached Indiana to participate in a tribute portfolio for the 1976 American Bicentennial celebrations. Along with 11 other of his contemporaries such as Alex Katz, Ed Ruscha and Larry Rivers, Indiana would take part in the “Kent Bicentennial Portfolio Spirit of Independence.”

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Robert Indiana’s Liberty ’76 from the Kent portfolio. 

A self proclaimed “American painter of signs,” Indiana was introduced to Hard Edge painting by the already well-known painter Ellsworth Kelly. Robert Indiana forged his unique style working with a minimal palette of flat color and using Kelly’s technique of isolating elements from one another. The geometric figures, which, individually seem flat, combined, accomplish great dimension. The placement of each shape is complimented with the use of pure color that gives depth and a sense of motion to his work. 

In Liberty ’76, Indiana delivers, through vernacular signage, numbers and symbols a dazzling composition reflecting quintessential Americana in his trademark style. The stars, stripes and a large, red number “76” reference freedom and liberty and pop to the foreground. His bold style can at first glance seem simple, however, this is misleading. He is an underrated and undervalued artistic genius, who created his art with masterful skill and perfection, understanding and manipulating the power of shape and color to create perfectly balanced compositions such as Liberty ’76

Liberty ’76 perfectly captures the symbolisms of the American Dream and American Identity with a direct and positive outlook. Indiana himself would say: “Pop Art is the American Dream, optimistic, generous and naive!” It is, however, difficult to place Indiana’s body of work into a preset artistic classification because his art transcends and bridges many artistic movements. His work is simultaneously Pop, Hard-Edge, Geometric, Color Field, Textual, Minimalist and Reductive, and therein lies his brilliance. He also provides an example of work that is both deeply personal and universal. His works reflect events of the times while also carrying messages to future generations, adding the element of activism to his oeuvre. He has paved the way for many contemporary artists such as Jenny Holzer and Shepard Fairey, among many others. 

Of the 125 Kent Portfolio sets created, 110 were gifted to American museums, 4 to the American Federation of the Arts and 3 to the United States Information Agency. The piece featured at Gregg Shienbaum Fine Art is a rare Artist Proof from a small edition run of 10. 

WOW! – Work of the Week – Robert Motherwell – Harvest with Blue Bottom





Robert Motherwell
Harvest with Blue Bottom
1973
Lithograph with Collage
36 x 18 in.
Edition of 55
Pencil signed and numberedAbout the work:

Robert Motherwell is known as one of the most important and influential artists of the 20th century. In 1940, as a promising young painter, he moved from California to New York City, joined a group of artists (including Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko) and set out to change the face of American art. The artists renounced the prevalent American style, believing Realism depicted only the surface of American life. Motherwell was a key figure in the group to establish America’s first major original art style: Abstract Expressionism, or what he called the New York School, a movement that would place New York at the center of the international art world.

Strongly influenced by the European Surrealists, many of whom had emigrated to New York during World War II, the Abstract Expressionists sought to create essential images that revealed emotional truth and authenticity of feeling through the removal of the inessentials and showing only what was necessary.

Motherwell who was a fervent admirer of Matisse became a colorist seeking out earthy ochres, brilliant yellows and oranges, blues and violets. He also adopted the Matissian technique of collage, the most radical form of drawing developed in the twentieth century.

Motherwell’s collage works were not simply aesthetically pleasing forms and colors, but related to the world in some way. In his collages, he took a personal, lyrical approach, combining fragments of colored paper, labels, letters and stamps in evocative compositions. Incorporating material from his studio such as cigarette packets and labels, the works ultimately became records of his daily life.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Harvest with Blue Bottom, from the Summer Light series, in which Motherwell created elegantly playful collages. 

The Summer of Light series was made up of some of the most elaborate print-work that Motherwell produced during his career. Each piece was realized using lithography, collage and hand-ripping of different types of paper.  

Continuing a tradition established by Picasso and Braque of incorporating the detritus of daily life and its simple pleasures, the Summer Light series from 1973 integrates two of Motherwell’s favorite pastimes– drinking and smoking. 

The title of this image, Harvest with Blue Bottom, derives from the collaged element of the Ernte 23 cigarette label. “Ernte” is the German translation for harvest. The Summer Light series features six images of the Ernte 23 label and four of Château Latour wine labels. Practically, these materials were laying about his studio and were immediate and on hand, but invariably they were autobiographical, serving as a kind of documentation of his daily life and habits.

Although he is by no means an ”autobiographical” artist, it’s in his collages that fragments of his life reveal themselves. While viewing a collage retrospective of his in the 1970’s, he was ”astounded that, like Proust eating the madeleine, in these abstract compositions all kinds of personal memories would surface that I’d completely forgotten about – not about painting, but about my daily life, my marriage, where I was living at the time, or who I was particularly friendly with and so on. But the autobiography in them wouldn’t be clear to an outside person.” 

Beyond autobiographical, the Summer of Light series and all of the artist’s collage work take on the status of the artist’s own diary evoking intimate memories.