Hilary Pecis - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, May 18, 2022 | Phillips
  • "In paintings of interiors there is a sort of portraiture that takes place in what people choose to put on display. I love the idea that those objects either define who they are or who they aspire to be."
    — Hilary Pecis

    Marking Hilary Pecis’ largest canvas at auction to date, Adrianne’s Bookshelf exemplifies the artist’s captivating painterly language that elevates intimate, recognizable vignettes into vibrant celebrations of everyday life. Here, Pecis presents four rows of floating shelves in a cozy domestic setting, packing the composition with books, artworks, flowers, and paraphernalia in her signature aesthetic. Pecis’ meticulous and individual treatment of each object begs us to look closer at the pictures on display and scan each book title—whether fully disclosed or only partially revealed—to find a gem of relatability, something we have seen or possess, while enticing us to decode the identity of this bookshelf’s owner. Transforming still life into a portrait of the human psyche, the present work “delivers [Pecis’] own brand of portraiture by zeroing in on the objects and places that make up the person.”i


    Félix Valloton, La biliothèque (The Library), 1921. Musée départemental Maurice Denis, Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Image: © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY

    "There is a pleasure in painting the way objects interact with each other as figures themselves."
    — Hilary Pecis

    Best known for her vibrant still life interiors and landscapes that teem with art historical references, Pecis explores the notions of perception, identity, and meaning through the objects that populate our homes. Drawing from her own surroundings as inspiration, from friends’ homes to lavish gardens—much like fellow Los Angeles-based painter Jonas Wood—the artist transforms these spaces through her painterly sensibility, employing popping colors and bold lines to imbue “saturated life [into these] visually stunning, modest memorials.”ii Situating Pecis within a longstanding lineage of interior painters, Adrianne’s Bookshelf conjures the artist’s diverse range of influences including the work of Henri Matisse, Les Nabis members such as Félix Vallotton, and undoubtedly David Hockney. While recalling her oft-cited connection to the British painter’s Los Angelesian interiors and gardens, the present work captures Pecis’ signature approach of excluding figures from the composition. Translating these evocations through her unique visual language, Pecis reimagines portraiture by allowing the objects to narrate the entire story of their owners. As she explained, “I enjoy portraiture, but the closest I can get to a portrait is by painting someone’s surroundings. I think it can be as personal as a painting of their face.”iii


    David Hockney, Beach House by Day, 1990. Private Collection. Artwork: © David Hockney

    "Still lifes and interiors are deeply rooted in the history of representational painting. There are all these opportunities to noodle away at other artists' or artisans' mark-making, trying to depict something that isn't mine…It's an opportunity to further my own vocabulary."
    — Hilary Pecis
    For the present work, Pecis depicted her friend’s bookshelf with her signature still life motifs: artist monographs and exhibition catalogues, various types of novels and plants, and pictures that both bear meaning for the owner of these objects and reflect Pecis’ own artistic inspirations. Here, the artist’s subject is the home of her contemporary Adrianne Rubenstein, with whom Pecis exhibited at Sun Gazers at The Pit, Los Angeles in 2018, The Armory Show in 2020, and 10 Years at the Halsey McKay Gallery, East Hampton in 2021. Pecis alludes to her peer’s eco-forward practice in the “SAVE THE PLANET” imagery on the top two shelves, where Rubenstein’s artistic influences feature in the depicted Peter Saul drawing and Emily Carr reference. Pecis further infuses the composition with her own art historical citations, as seen in her direct nod to one of her greatest inspirations, Matthew Wong, in the framed landscape picture on the second shelf. In this “painting-within-a-painting,” the artist incorporates her love for knick-knacks in the pencil depicted with her friend’s name, embodying how “I get to try out different marks and be a tourist in other people's paintings,” in her words, “while staying as true to my own vocabulary of mark-making.”iv,v


    Matthew Wong, Mood Room, 2018. Private Collection (Sold Phillips, New York, July 2020). Artwork: © 2022 Matthew Wong Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    By using images as a guideline, it frees me up to take liberties, like using abstraction in particular areas when it makes sense to do so…The abstraction of space in a representational painting still thrills me to the max."
    — Hilary Pecis

    Pecis paints from photographs she takes of her interior subjects. While rendering certain objects with near-exacting precision, Pecis abstracts others that are difficult to discern from her source photograph, resulting in a mix of legible and indiscernible scribbles scattered throughout the composition. At upper left, for example, we find a Stanley Whitney catalogue from his 2015 Karma Gallery show, rendered in all-red to mimic the book’s real-life counterpart. In other areas, Pecis gives fewer clues, inviting us to insert our own narratives into the composition. Encapsulating the heart of Pecis’ painterly practice, this teetering sensibility between representation and abstraction pervades throughout the present work’s myriad suggested texts. The artist’s concerns lie not so much in legibility as they do in embodiment, privileging an engagement with the painterly process and her fascination in exploring the formal aspects of text and language, such as font, alignment, and visual character. “There are a few fundamentals that I find really interesting in paintings, like line and color,” she explained. “Text makes for a nice natural line. There’s a beautiful way that the strokes appear.”vi



    For Pecis, eschewing the presence of the human figure in her compositions allows objects to interact as figures themselves. “I love when there’s text on things I’m [painting] because it can anthropomorphize objects. It lends character,” she expressed.vii This “anthropomorphization” is not about humanizing the object in relation to the referenced name on the book, but about the object carrying its own presence as she translates its physical being onto canvas—as one would in painting a human portrait. As Nancy Gamboa observed, “Each object and pattern carries its own topography, layered more or less with a conviction and a looseness that is amplified in the larger canvases.”viii In the last few years, the artist’s shift towards working on a larger scale allowed her to both pack further visual information into her compositions—resulting in more ambitious works as Adrianne’s Bookshelf—and invite viewers into the space of her painted canvases, thereby filling the absence of a rendered human figure. “I like making the bigger paintings because, as a viewer, they have more of an entry point, like you can [physically] relate more to the scale,” as she said. “And it's just more fun.”ix


    i Nancy Gamboa, “Hilary Pecis Captures the Layers of Los Angeles’s Landscape,” Cultured Magazine, June 23, 2021, online.
    iiJames English Leary, Milena Muzquiz, Hilary Pecis, Ryan Steadman, Johannes VanDerBeek,” Halsey McKay Gallery, East Hampton, press release, 2020.
    iii Hilary Pecis, quoted in Gwynned Vitello, “Hilary Pecis: The Humble is Whole,” Juxtapoz Magazine, June 14, 2021, online.
    iv Hilary Pecis, quoted in Karen Rosenberg, “Artist Hilary Pecis on Traveling Remotely Through Painting,” Artful, June 3, 2020, online.
    v Hilary Pecis, quoted in Gwynned Vitello, “Hilary Pecis: The Humble is Whole,” Juxtapoz Magazine, June 14, 2021, online.
    vi Hilary Pecis, quoted in Chloë Ashby, “Painting by Letters: The Power of Words within Art,” Elephant, March 21, 2022, online.
    vii Ibid.
    viii Nancy Gamboa, “Hilary Pecis Captures the Layers of Los Angeles’s Landscape,” Cultured Magazine, June 23, 2021, online.
    ix Hilary Pecis, quoted in Julie Smith Schneider, “Art in Focus Spotlight: Hilary Pecis,” The Center Magazine [by Rockefeller Center, New York], July 7, 2021, online.

    • Provenance

      Halsey McKay Gallery, East Hampton
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      East Hampton, Halsey McKay Gallery, James English Leary, Milena Muzquiz, Hilary Pecis, Ryan Steadman, Johannes VanDerBeek, July 21–August 23, 2020

    • Literature

      Enuma Okoro, “Kanye West and the emotional power of home,” Financial Times, September 11, 2021, online (illustrated)
      Chloë Ashby, "Painting by Letters: The Power of Words within Art," Elephant, March 21, 2022, online (illustrated)

    • Artist Biography

      Hilary Pecis

      Hilary Pecis (b. 1979) earned a BFA and MFA from the California College of the Arts, San Francisco, CA. She currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California. She is well known for her densely decorated domestic scenes, tablescapes, and Southern California landscapes. Her canvases are saturated with color and a geometric quality defines the recognizable shapes and objects found throughout her compositions.

      Pecis has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Rockefeller Center, New York (2021); Timothy Taylor, London (2021); Spurs Gallery, Beijing (2020); Rachel Uffner Gallery, New York (2020); and Crisp-Ellert Art Museum, Flagler College, St. Augustine, Florida (2019). Recent group exhibitions include 13 Women: Variation I, Orange County Museum of Art, Costa Mesa, California (2022–2023); Present Generations: Creating the Scantland Collection of the Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio (2021); FEEDBACK, The School at Jack Shainman Gallery, Kinderhook, New York (2021); L.A.: Views, Maki Gallery, Tokyo (2020); High Voltage, The Nassima-Landau Project, Tel Aviv, Israel (2020); and (Nothing but) Flowers, Karma, New York (2020). Her work is in the permanent collections of institutions including the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio; Aïshti Foundation, Beirut; and Yuz Museum, Shanghai.

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Adrianne's Bookshelf

signed, titled and dated "Hilary Pecis "Adrianne's Bookshelf" 2020" on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
54 1/4 x 44 in. (137.7 x 111.8 cm)
Painted in 2020.

Full Cataloguing

$300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for $630,000

Contact Specialist

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 18 May 2022