Rudolf Stingel - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, May 13, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, Paris
    Private Collection, Paris

  • Catalogue Essay

    During the past twenty years Rudolf Stingel has tested the limits of creative medium. Focusing on technique and method, his very transformation of surfaces defines his work: integrating potential with practicality, Stingel turns the imagined into tangible reality. Untitled from 2012 presents a gorgeous and treasured piece of craftsmanship. The gilded surface evokes a sense of extravagant worth, working alongside the choice of medium to challenge the very notions of material and value. The engravings that indent the otherwise smooth, cool, metallic surface vary from textual to linear to interpretive, incorporating the various inspirations of a multitude of participators. The etchings expand beyond the boundaries of the panels, featuring inscriptions that envelope the viewer in the complexity of the composition. The luminous surface reflects light in its flatness yet, where the surface has been punctured, light is absorbed into the composition. As the light meanders through the peaks and valleys of the inscriptions, the abundant radiance creates both a physical and spiritual moment of pure splendor.

    In the early 1990’s Rudolf Stingel experimented with the craft-medium of carpets, covering floors and converting exhibition spaces with the intricately textured fabrics. This interest in complex texture was subsequently developed in his metal works. Untitled from 2012, comprised of galvanized copper, is a continuation of an aluminium series, displayed at a mid-career retrospective exhibition held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and The Whitney Museum, New York in 2007. For the show Stingel transformed the conventional “white cube” presentation, created to facilitate observation and spectatorship, into a space of participation. Audience interaction was incited in the form of active contribution. Visitors were allowed to leave behind a permanent memento of their experience: left free to inscribe their own creations into the surrounding surfaces. The walls themselves were covered by the artist in a layer of aluminium-topped insulation material. This choice reflected the qualities of the surface that render it malleable and fragile, open to adaptation and alteration. The stimulus and projected incentive was created by the artist to enable participant interaction without losing the power of autonomy.

    This interaction between audience and artist is integral to the process of the art itself rather than being a reaction to the product. Stingel instead directly involves the viewer in his creation, incorporating them into his creative practice. The visitors’ indents and scratches left an array of graffiti-like, impulsive gestures embedded in the material. The artist then transformed these segments, casting fragments of them into copper, faithfully reproducing specific marks and incisions. The resulting work is multi-dimensional and multi-faceted, amalgamating and incorporating various contributions to form an opulent whole. Individual traces were subsumed into the accumulated mass and then transformed into an absolute artwork by the artist’s hand.

    Yet the resulting product is intricate in constitution. The aggressive physicality of the somewhat prosaic graffiti-style marks draws an emphatic comparison with the visual and seductive intricacy of the material and creative process. The apt transfer of agent from excavated shell to smooth metallic surface juxtaposes the notions of destruction and creation. “I wouldn’t know where to say intervention stops and destruction begins.” (Rudolf Stingel) The dichotomy between art and vandalism is explored in the graffiti-esque technique: the consumptive marks are glorified and transformed into a permanent testimonial to impulsive whims of the public.

    Stingel rejects formal art instruction, instead drawing his guidelines from a sort of unlearning, a re-visitation and re-definition of the correct formula for creativity. Despite the exploration into the delineation between art and graffiti, there is not the same power of carefully calculated relinquishment of artistic control. By accumulating all manner of compulsive contributions, the work is exuberantly human and collectively anonymous, rather than pertaining solely to the artist himself. Conflating a subject that is highly autobiographical with a conversely submissive process, Stingel has put the notion of authorship into question. Through inviting the public to create rather than to simply observe, Stingel democratises the act of painting, thus distancing himself from the legendary tradition of the artist-genius.

    This technique seems to inject a touch of irony into his interpretation of art-making. Stingel’s challenging of traditional notions of hierarchy in painting has linked his work to the Italian movement of Arte Povera and the appropriation of surroundings and shared environment. By rendering his sources available to his public, the artist examines notions of talent and creative accomplishment and explores the defining properties of the status of artist. The artist commented on this breakdown of conventional protocol: “The abstract shell appeared to be perfect in a provocative way and apparently invited [each individual] to manifest [his impulse]. Numerous motives appear to have led to this behaviour; the neutrality of the installation paired with the anonymity of the visitors certainly plays a role.” Stingel thus encourages the reconsideration of the fundamental qualities of painting presenting it as deeply representational and dimensional rather than purely visual.

    This interest in unexplainable dimensionality draws links with the spatial works of Lucio Fontana. Fontana stated: “I say dimension because I cannot think what other word to use. I make a hole in the canvas in order to leave behind me the old pictorial formulae, the painting and the traditional view of art – and I escape symbolically, but also materially, from the prison of the flat surface.” (Lucio Fontana, 1968) Fontana, similarly to Stingel, wrote a treatise on his art in 1947, that presented a documented version of his technical manifesto. He wrote: the representation of known forms and repetitive story-telling mean nothing to the men of our century, who have been formed by this materialism. This is why abstraction, at which we have arrived gradually by way of formalization, was born. But abstraction does not meet the needs of the men of today. A change is therefore needed, a change in essence and form. We have to go beyond painting, sculpture, poetry, music. What is now wanted is an art based on the necessity of a new vision’. (Lucio Fontana, ed. Gilbert Brownstone, Paris, 1970, p. 46) Fontana’s endeavor finds development in the work of Stingel in his similar strife for the rejection of classical form and representation in order to face larger, existential problematic and concerns.

    Stingel's broader concerns with memory and decline are displayed in his deliberate and complicated layering process; allowing for chance and interplay to form the traces of both personal and collective autobiography. Through his painting the artist represents the ineluctable transformation of appearances over time and renders them visible in palpable, aesthetic form. The casting process compiles the previous, otherwise singular creative actions into a cumulative whole. Time is evoked through both the marks themselves, which record physical interaction, and in the final, inclusive documentation of the entirety of the event retrospectively. The intrinsically temporal nature of the work demonstrates the painting’s potential to represent a variety of dimensions that surpass the purely visual and allude to the conceptual and theoretical.

    As well as pushing the limits of painting, Stingel, in the method behind this work, also transforms the relationship between painting and space of exhibition. The foiled insulation material that formed the canvas for the initial painting templates was presented as a seamless extension of the architectural space. In this merging of display space and artwork, Stingel questions the autonomous status of painting as more or less reliant on its presentation. Untitled thus also implies the deconstruction of the pre-requisite status of the museum, radically championing the freedom of the public to express themselves within the artspace. In allowing both spectatorship and collaboration the artist has blurred the boundary between creator and beholder. His willingness to allow the interchange and interplay of roles represents a confidence of genesis and encourages rather than hinders a positive reception.

    Stingel questions painting within his painting itself, presenting a both implicit and explicit observation on the medium and its qualities. As stated by curator Francesco Bonami: “the mere act of painting does not create a painting but simply some painting. But if the action of painting is used as a lens to observe reality to create another reality, then we have a painting…Stingel creates a transitive way to recede from abstraction into the subject and to push the subject into a different kind of time.” (Francesco Bonami, ed., Paintings of Paintings for Paintings, The Kairology and Kronology of Rudolf Stingel, Rudolf Stingel, London, 2007, pp. 13-14) The creation of Untitled manages to capture various fleeting moments of diverse influences and experiences into a single embodiment of the effects of passing of time on memory and recollection. It both celebrates and confronts transience, highlighting the temporary yet rendering it timeless through art. “Stingel's work is an X ray of his memory, of the memory of his painting. The real thing, the physical object, or the real person has already disappeared, irradiated by time.” (Rudolf Stingel, 2011)

  • Artist Biography

    Rudolf Stingel

    Italian • 1956

    Rudolf Stingel came to prominence in the late 1980s for his insistence on the conceptual act of painting in a context in which it had been famously declared dead. Despite the prevailing minimalist and conceptual narrative of the time, the Italian-born artist sought to confront the fundamental aspirations and failures of Modernist painting through the very medium of painting itself. While his works do not always conform to the traditional definitions of painting, their attention to surface, space, color and image provide new and expanded ways of thinking about the process and "idea" of painting. Central to his multifarious and prolific oeuvre is an examination of the passage of time and the probing of the fundamental questions of authenticity, meaning, hierarchy, authorship and context by dislocating painting both internally and in time and space. Stingel is best known for his wall-to-wall installations, constructed of fabric or malleable Celotex sheets, as well as his seemingly more traditional oil-on-canvas paintings.

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Ο ◆10


electroformed copper, plated nickel and gold, in 4 parts
each 47 1/4 x 47 1/4 in. (120 x 120 cm)
overall 94 1/2 x 94 1/2 x 1 1/2 in. (240 x 240 x 3.8 cm)

$4,000,000 - 6,000,000 

Sold for $4,757,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Stoffel
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1261

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Evening Sale 14 May 2015 7pm