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Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
Phillips, New York, 13 May 2010, lot 103
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Untitled (Plan B) reflects many of Rudolf Stingel’s perennial creative concerns, framed within an irresistibly appealing network of undulating patterns and warm golden hues. The artist combines enamel with the more traditional medium of oil, creating a glossy layer over the work and arguably reimagining the oil painting for the twenty-first century. Stingel has experimented with shades of gold throughout his career, returning time and again to explore the limits of the colour, subsuming its inferences of royal finery and brocade alongside suggestions of textural depth. Although Stingel has often physically intervened and indented the surface of his canvases, in Untitled (Plan B) he conjures a similar effect through subtle visual manipulations while remaining in the two-dimensional plane. An elaborate motif extends seemingly infinitely, appearing at close quarters to be uneven and variable but narrowing into thin uniform lines in the distance. These lines alternatively tend towards the right and left of the painting depending on the viewer’s own spatial position. We are thereby invited to actively participate in the work, seeking in vain to place order on a labyrinthine structure of interweaving patterns. Rising above this stretches a further manifestation of the same design on a smaller scale, a repetition which enlarges the overall scale of the composition. This recurrence simultaneously acts as a reflection and variation of the lower layer, lending a photographic quality to the image and raising doubts about the correlation between the internal elements of the painting.
Stingel has habitually sought to invert our understanding of domestic and industrial materials, a theme he takes up once again in Untitled (Plan B). He challenges the customary separation of the decorative and visual arts by employing familiar carpet motifs as the primary subject matter of his canvas, depicting them in a plush and indulgent manner. The effect of this re-contextualisation is almost otherworldly, emphasised by the disorientating glimmer of the enamel over the linen base. Executed in 2008, Untitled (Plan B) belongs to a series inspired by Stingel’s 2004 Plan B installation at Grand Central Terminal in New York. By installing a vivid floral carpet across the entire Vanderbilt Hall, he transformed a busy public space using decorative elements usually reserved for the private or semi-private sphere. The project was understated and monumental, minimalist in its simplicity but ground-breaking in its impact and ability to provoke a range of engagement according to a pre-established conceptual framework. It also served to raise wider implications about the very status of contemporary art and the tensions inherent in its collection.
This work sits within Stingel’s wider oeuvre as a celebrated example of his revolutionary artistic practice, testing the boundaries between abstraction and figuration as well as the limits of individual materials, colours and wider concepts. By forcing us to take an active role in unpacking the visual complexities and associations in the painting, Stingel overturns conventional hierarchies and creates a space in which new relationships can be forged between artist, medium and viewer.
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.
London Auction 8 March 2017 5pm GMT