Jonas Wood - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Wednesday, May 15, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Anton Kern Gallery, New York
    Brand New Gallery, Milan
    Private Collection, Italy
    Private Collection, United Kingdom

  • Exhibited

    Milan, Brand New Gallery, The Shortest Distance Between 2 Points Is Often Intolerable, January 13 - February 26, 2011

  • Catalogue Essay

    Depicting one of the most celebrated athletes in NBA history, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jonas Wood’s Lew Alcindor from 2010 is a stand-out example from the artist’s celebrated sports card series. Driven by Wood's interest in experimenting with the traditional genre of portraiture, this series depicts various athletes’ trading cards, which the artist has selected for either the particular player’s esteem or the attractive aesthetic of the card itself. Borrowing from his Pop predecessors, Wood provides a new context for this familiar imagery by rendering the subject as a large scale painting on canvas, granting the formerly banal object a sense of gravitas.

    In the present lot, Wood illustrates one of the NBA's most legendary players, Lew Alcindor, who would later adopt the name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The renowned seven-foot-two basketball player was honored with several revered titles including six-time “NBA Most Valuable Player” and one of the “50 Greatest Players in NBA History”. Wood's composition is inspired by one of Abdul-Jabbar’s first trading cards as a professional athlete, made just after he lead the Milwaukee Bucks to their first NBA championship in 1971.

    Redefining a traditional style of portraiture, Wood seamlessly combines nostalgic imagery from youth culture with his signature aesthetic. Emphasizing the physicality of the trading card itself, Wood utilizes a vertically-oriented composition, stylized block letters and a contrasting red backdrop that allow the figure to stand prominently off the canvas. Nearly identical to Abdul-Jabbar’s photograph on the original card, the figure’s energetic posture and focused facial expression imbue a liveliness that reflects Wood’s desire to express the athlete’s passion. Defining his work in the details, Wood is particularly attentive to Kareem’s individualizing characteristics, such as his angular side burns and lean muscularity, which make him immediately recognizable. He gazes intimately at his spectators, indicative of the artist’s style, but unique to the popularized imagery of athletes, who are ordinarily pictured while engaged in their sport and unaware of the camera. In both concept and execution, Lew Alcindor is an expert example of Wood's defining style of contemporary portraiture, which is at once personal, familiar and uniquely his own.


Lew Alcindor

signed with the artist's initials, titled and dated "LEW ALCINDOR JBRW 2010" on the reverse
oil and acrylic on linen
54 x 40 in. (137.2 x 101.6 cm.)
Painted in 2010.

$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for $187,500

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 15 May | On View at 450 Park Avenue