Untitled

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  • Provenance

    Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
    Private Collection, 2007

  • Catalogue Essay


    “I am demonstrating that using different surfaces, we can produce very diverse environments.” Rudolf Stingel, 2004

    Italian-born artist Rudolf Stingel has accrued international acclaim due to his concentrated reinvestigation of painting as an artistic archetype. Working in New York since the late 1980s, Stingel challenges notions of authenticity, hierarchy, meaning, and context in his exceedingly diverse artistic output. Stingel’s work can be photorealistic, at times abstract and elsewhere wholly immersive. While his paintings are aesthetically striking, and entice the spectator with their exquisite beauty, they are also grounded in refined, conceptual approach.

    In Untitled, 2007, Stingel revolutionizes surface. The work employs a silvery grey scale, where infinite tonal subtleties interact to create a highly decorative plane. The effect is one of spellbinding visual opulence. The silvery canvas, measuring nine by six feet, exceeds human scale and engulfs the spectator with near sublime power. Untitled does not present a uniform surface. Rather, scores of crinkling folds accent the composition and call the work away from the two-dimensionality that historically characterizes painting. With the present lot, Stingel presents the viewer with a seductive tactility that brings Untitled into an altogether different realm. Rather than offering a window onto a different reality, the present lot brilliantly asserts itself, in modernist fashion, within the space it occupies. Taking on a near-sculptural quality, Untitled is a work that makes a physical impression upon its viewer. The rippling creases are manipulated by Stingel to cohere within a larger system of harmonious, compositional balance.

    Stingel’s artistic influences are manifold and solidify his rightful place within the developmental narrative of painting in the modern and contemporary arena. The atmospheric quality of the present lot, and the way in which Stingel skillfully manipulates shades of silver-grey, recall the color field contributions of Mark Rothko. The textural, almost wiped-away appearance of Untitled also brings to mind the graphic work of painter Christopher Wool. The vigor of Abstract Expressionism is revitalized in Untitled, as the spectator is left to scan the surface of the canvas, without the prescriptive direction of a hierarchical composition. Stingel uses the massive scale first championed by Abstract Expressionist painters, ensuring that the viewer becomes completely lost in an expressive, silver-grey void. The layered pleats of monochromatic painter Piero Manzoni are brought to mind when looking at how, in Untitled, Stingel hints at texture in two-dimensional painting. Stingel’s line of aesthetic inquiry takes inspiration, but also departs from that of his predecessors.

    Critic Jerry Saltz said of Stingel’s practice: “Stingel has always gone to extremes, making good-looking, self-referential paintings about painting that somehow manage to both parody and glorify the process while corralling vast amounts of the impinging world in the form of social politics, humor, uncommon beauty and something menacing.” (J. Saltz, “The Icon and the Iconoclast,” Village Voice, Published March 1, 2005). Indeed, Stingel’s diverse artistic ventures can be united by a commitment to rethinking and expanding the definition of painting. Stingel is widely known for his manual titled “Instructions,” conceived in 1989, in which he explains how to technically construct a “Stingel-painting.” In this project, the artist deconstructs his own authorship, thus democratizing the practice of artistic production. Stingel reduces his work to the mere execution of a set of steps, placing his oeuvre within the realm of conceptual art. In contrast, Stingel is also renowned for his large-scale installations that invite spectators to scratch and mark the surface of reflective insulation foil. In 2007 these interactive surfaces completely covered walls in the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the Whitney Museum of American Art. With this project Stingel disavowed his own authorship, and abandoned the canvas in order to make painting a wholly immersive experience. Stingel said that with the project, he demonstrates that in “…using different surfaces, we can produce very diverse environments.” (Rudolf Stingel interviewed in conjunction with Home Depot Exhibition, Musuem für Moderne Kunst, 2004). The emphasis on the transformative properties of the surface in this project clearly pervades throughout Stingel’s oeuvre. It is a driving force behind the conception of the present lot, Untitled, whose plane presents the viewer with a striking, absorbing environment.

    Curator Francesco Bonami once remarked of Stingel’s practice: “What makes a painting a 'Painting'? This question has yet to be answered by art historians, critics, or artists. Maybe through Rudolf Stingel's work we can find a possible answer…what makes a painting a 'Painting' is the capacity of the artist to create either a performance that will be possible to look at forever or to create a void that will blend with the passing of time. This ability to grasp and harness time holds the keys to creating a 'Painting.’”(F. Bonami, 'Paintings of Paintings for Paintings', in Rudolf Stingel, exh. cat., Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago 2007, p. 13). It is true that many of Stingel’s explorations, in their complex authorship and self-reflexivity, bare evidence of passing time. The set of photorealistic self-portraits he created in 2005 concertize the process of his own aging, while his silvery canvases often show traces of their making.

    A dazzling example from his oeuvre, Untitled presents just one of the many explorations into the aesthetic practice of painting that Stingel has conducted in his lifetime.

  • Artist Bio

    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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6

Untitled

2007
oil on canvas
95 x 76 in. (241.3 x 193 cm)
Signed and dated "Stingel 2007" on the reverse.

Estimate
$700,000 - 1,000,000 

sold for $785,000

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

Contemporary Art Evening

New York Auction 13 November 2014 7pm