John McCracken - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Wednesday, November 14, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Douglas Gallery, Vancouver
    Private Collection, Canada (acquired from the above circa 1972-73)
    David Zwirner, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    “My works are minimal and reduced, but also maximal. I try to make them concise, clear statements in three-dimensional form, and also to take them to a breathtaking level of beauty.” – John McCracken

    California-based artist John McCracken’s singular oeuvre occupies a unique position in the history of Minimalism. Often likened to the works of Donald Judd and Carl Andre in aesthetic, his signature monochromatic sculptures are in fact the result of an intense, handmade process executed by the artist himself. Coated in a glossy black resin, 12-III from 1971 is a stellar early example of McCracken’s hallmark style, in which he sands, bevels and polishes wood to a point of near-perfection, belying the laborious process by which it was created. In discussing the handmade nature of his works, he explains, “I think it does make some difference – even beyond what’s physically perceivable – whether or not I do the work myself. Anything one touches and forms will have subtle reflections of the maker’s energy in it” (John McCracken, quoted in “John McCracken and Matthew Higgs”, Early Sculpture, Zwirner & Wirth, exh. cat., New York, p. 9). McCracken’s approach to the process of creation is drastically different from that of Judd and Andre, whose industrially fabricated works intentionally eliminate the artist’s hand.

    Selecting materials specifically for their reflective qualities, McCracken’s practice is perhaps better aligned with the California Light and Space movement. In 12-III, McCracken pares down form to the most fundamental element – the cube. The smooth, highly polished surface activates its surroundings and serves as a mirror for light, architecture, and passersby. In all of his sculptures, McCracken saturates color to a point of extreme density, and his black works take on a distinct otherworldly quality. Perhaps an allusion to his belief in UFOs, or to his fascination with the Ancient Egyptian sculpture, Chephren, executed in black diorite, the color black holds an unmistakably special place within the artist’s oeuvre.



incised with the artist's initials, title and date "JM 1971 12-III" on the underside
resin, fiberglass and plywood
12 x 12 x 12 in. (30.5 x 30.5 x 30.5 cm.)
Executed in 1971.

$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for $137,500

Contact Specialist
Rebekah Bowling
Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
New York
+ 1 212 940 1250

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 14 November 2018