Lucien Smith - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Monday, November 11, 2013 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    OHWOW, Los Angeles
    Private Collection

  • Catalogue Essay

    Blending a laidback West Coast attitude with Brooklyn grit, Lucien Smith has reinvigorated downtown cool with a renewed allegiance to craft and skill. While Smith’s work is full of a laconic distance from his subjects, in it is manifest an earnest engagement with the history of painting. Smith is best known for paintings that invade the border between representation and abstraction and in the current lot we find an important lodestar in the artist’s aesthetic, as well as psychological, constellation. Hobbes, The Rain Man, and My Friend Barney / Under the Sycamore Tree, 2011, is a striking, large-scale painting lushly depicting a scene from the second Winnie-the-Pooh animated Disney film. However the painting is in its own way a redacted form of this animated classic as Smith has removed the character of Piglet who, in the filmed version, was the only figure in the scene. This characterless background turns the animated children’s fable into a classical landscape painting, focusing on the natural form of the tree and the wind, and harkening specifically back to Japanese folding screens, Monet’s Weeping Willow, and perhaps most closely, Courbet’s Oak Trees, 1854.

    In the present lot, we have the artist playing back and forth between fiction and truth; the very title itself steers the viewer and artist back towards seemingly slight childhood charms, the comic novels of Pooh, as well as the comic strips of Calvin and Hobbes that are in-and-of themselves imbued with nostalgia as well as important Eastern and Western philosophy. Reflecting his upbringing as an only child, Smith investigates places of intellectual and emotional escape, as well as the schema of imaginary friends. In the current lot the artist manages to locate where these obsessions overlap; in the magical space below the blowing tree, where Pooh and his friends search for meaning in the absurd, is where Smith has erased the friend closest to Pooh who may or may not exist. He has removed Pooh’s, and perhaps his own, id.


Hobbes, The Rain Man, and My Friend Barney / Under the Sycamore Tree

oil on canvas
122 x 91 in. (309.9 x 231.1 cm.)

$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for $389,000

Contact Specialist
Zach Miner
Head of Evening Sale
+1 212 940 1256

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York 11 November 2013 7PM