Caroline Kent - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Wednesday, November 15, 2023 | Phillips

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  • Jewel-toned shapes, halfway between figuration and abstraction, dance across a matte-black background in Caroline Kent’s Out of the solitude and into the daydream, 2022. These symbols appear vaguely familiar to the viewer—a three-pronged green claw on the righthand center, a blue bowtie hovering above it, and a magenta figure with two legs on the top left—yet remain staunchly removed from reality.


    Considered by the artist as a type of "non-space," both undefinable and unlocatable, the dense black background disallows any additional context to distinguish the specifics of her abstractions. Only her titles remain to guide us toward a hint of meaning; in the case of Out of the solitude and into the daydream, Kent perhaps is depicting a triumphant moment in which a figure is emerging from a withdrawn state.

    “Blackness in this world is tethered to these places far out in the cosmos or deep in the sea. You go in either direction and you are met with blackness.”
    —Caroline Kent

    Kent’s approach for mocking up her works echoes that of Matisse’s cut-outs—she rotates and moves pieces of cut paper, composing her tableaux through a process of trial and error with scissors before paint, expanding her visual lexicon in the process. Matisse’s cut-outs have been described as him “carving into color,” and as coupling an engaging simplicity with incredible creative sophistication.i Like Matisse’s Memory of Oceania, 1953, Kent’s work achieves a brilliant sense of harmony with an unexpected mélange of colors. Kent’s works follow in this tradition with a distinctly contemporary spirit.


    Henri Matisse, Memory of Oceania. Nice-Cimiez, Hôtel Régina, summer 1952–early 1953. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Image: © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Beyond Matisse, Kent’s inspiration for the discrete forms in her work comes from art movements such as Russian Constructivism, while the vivid colors and playfulness echo that of Mexican Modernists Pedro Coronel and Luis Barrágan in an homage to her Mexican heritage. “Moving through the world,” Kent recalls, “I found [language] was a barrier one had to surpass in order to connect. With abstract painting, everybody had the same starting point.”ii Reinvigorating the language of Modernist abstraction by inventing her own visual vocabulary, Kent engages with questions of language: how does language structure our world? Should all language be able to be understood? And who gets to be inside or outside a language? Her symbols allow Kent to create a proposed language which moves beyond normative structures of communication.


    Caroline Kent’s first major institutional solo show, A short play about watching shadows move across the room, will open at the Queens Museum, New York, later this year. In 2022, her work was featured in the Museum of Modern Art’s The Modern Window exhibition series. The Chicago-based painter is represented by Patron Gallery in Chicago and Casey Kaplan Gallery in New York.



     “Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs,” Tate Modern, accessed September 22, 2023, online.

    ii  Caroline Kent, “The Modern Window: Caroline Kent,” Museum of Modern Art, accessed October 5, 2023, online.

    • Provenance

      Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles
      Private Collection
      Acquired from the above by the present owner


Out of the solitude and into the daydream

signed and dated "KENT 2022" on the reverse
acrylic on unstretched canvas
104 x 81 in. (264.2 x 205.7 cm)
Painted in 2022.

Full Cataloguing

$40,000 - 60,000 

Sold for $63,500

Contact Specialist

Patrizia Koenig 
Specialist, Head of Sale, Afternoon Session
+1 212 940 1279 

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 15 November 2023