Larry Poons - 20th C. & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Wednesday, November 13, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Description

    Please note that this lot is subject to a guarantee by a third party with a financial interest who will bid and may continue to bid on this lot.

    Please note that the estimates for this lot have been adjusted to $1,000,000 - $1,500,000.

  • Provenance

    Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
    Mr. & Mrs. Robert B. Mayer, Chicago (acquired from the above in March 1966)
    Sotheby’s, New York, November 9, 1989, lot 335
    Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, Inc., New York, Beverly Hills & Berlin (acquired by 1990)
    Sotheby’s, New York, May 3, 1995, lot 169
    PaceWildenstein, New York
    Private Collection, New York
    Phillips, New York, May 14, 2015, lot 39
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Washington, D.C., The Corcoran Gallery of Art, 30th Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting, February 24 – April 19, 1967, no. 70, n.p. (exhibited with vertical orientation)
    Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Selections from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Robert B. Mayer, July 13 - September 8, 1968, no. 55 (exhibited in horizontal orientation)
    New York, Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, Inc., Larry Poons, Paintings 1963-1990, April 3 - 30, 1990, no. 2, p. 112 (exhibited and illustrated in vertical orientation, p. 25)
    New York, Jacobson Howard Gallery, Classic Works from the 1960s, December 3, 2003 – January 26, 2004 (exhibited in vertical orientation)
    New York, Loretta Howard Gallery, Larry Poons: Geometry and Dots, November 7 – December 14, 2013 (exhibited in horizontal orientation)

  • Literature

    Archie Rand, "Archaeologist", Arts Magazine, January 1991, vol. 65, no. 5, p. 53 (illustrated in horizontal orientation)
    Lloyd Wise, "Larry Poons", Artforum, February 2014, p. 214 (illustrated in horizontal orientation)

  • Catalogue Essay

    "What you forget and rediscover in a painting is the experience of light. You don't remember light...short term you think you do; long term there's no remembrance of light. You don't carry light around with you in your head as a memory the way we do other things. It's always fresh." Larry Poons

    Drawing the viewer into a pulsating field of expansive color and light, Larry Poons’s monumental Jessica’s Hartford, 1965, is a seminal example of the iconic Dots paintings with which the artist was catapulted to fame in the mid-1960s. Expanding upon the rigorous play of color and optic sensations first explored in such paintings as Night on Cold Mountain, 1962, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Orange Crush, 1963, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, Poons here explores a looser idiom as he sets orange, lavender, pale blue and mint green circles and ellipses against the monochromatic chartreuse ground. Irregularly positioned atop the canvas, the dots seem to engage in a sort of dance within a field of pure color. The subtle, at times barely noticeable contrasts in color result in a remarkable flickering effect that seems to re-invent the conceptual tenets of Pointillism within the language of abstraction for the modern age. Distinguished by its exceptional provenance, Jessica’s Hartford was acquired shortly after its execution by the esteemed art collectors and philanthropists Robert and Beatrice Mayer, co-founders of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago who amassed one of the best contemporary art collections in the United States.

    Painted in 1965, Jessica’s Hartford was created in the very breakthrough year that catapulted Poons to fame. Having received his first solo exhibition at Green Gallery two years prior, in 1965 Poons, along with Josef Albers, Larry Bell, Ellsworth Kelly and Ad Reinhardt, was among the artists selected for The Museum of Modern Art’s defining exhibition The Responsive Eye, which explored different artistic investigations of perception and optical movement. Four years later, in 1969, Poons would be included in Henry Geldzahler’s landmark survey exhibition New York Painting and Sculpture: 1940-1970 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Within this exhibition, which comprised such stalwarts as Ad Reinhardt, Robert Motherwell and Ellsworth Kelly, the 33 year-old Poons was notably the youngest participant.

    While early critical reception of these works tied Poons to a variety of movements, specifically Op Art, as well as Color Field painting and Minimalism, the artist sought to distance himself from such categorizations. Avoiding the emerging Op Art movement in particular, Poons emphasized that the optical effects of his paintings were simply unintended consequences of his painterly abstractions. Seeking to disrupt the purported purity of the monochrome, Poons created rhythmic compositions that engaged much more in a dialogue with the geometric abstractions of Piet Mondrian. Echoing the pulsing rhythm and optical vibration of Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie, 1942-1943, Jessica’s Hartford evidences Poons’s rejection of a central composition. Poons painted each dot with remarkable care and consideration; though from afar appearing to fall like confetti across the surface, not one dot collides in this masterful orchestration of pure form and color. Upon close inspection, one can see the precision with which the composition was planned, manifested in razor sharp pencil lines which run both diagonally and vertically beneath the paint layer. Further recalling Mondrian’s masterwork, Poons’ system subtly imbues the composition of Jessica’s Hartford with a methodical underlying order.

    Poons, who studied at the New England Conservatory of Music and audited John Cage’s experimental composition course at the New School in the mid to late 1950s, inserts a pictorial musicality into his work. “By the time of his celebrated ‘Dots’ paintings…structural musicality has become so ingrained that it can make do with what seems to be the sparest means,” Barry Schwabsky observed. “Few paintings can be at once austere, and richly sensual, as Poons’s works of the sixties” (Barry Schwabsky, “Larry Poons: Musicality”, in Larry Poons, exh. cat., Yares Art, New York, 2017, p. 7). Poons’s formal framework functions akin to a musical score: while each painting is based on a predetermined formal structure, the underlying matrix offers a loose constraint to determine the placement of each dot. While each dot touches one of the grid’s lines, their specific spacing is irregular and intuitive – each functioning as an individual “tone”, while simultaneously coalescing into an overall chromatic symphony.

    While the decentralized, all-over composition in the present work allows for variable orientation, Jessica’s Hartford is perhaps strongest in a horizontal format, a favored structure within Poons’s broader oeuvre, and one that obliquely connects his abstractions to the mode of landscape painting. Suffused in shades of yellow, Jessica’s Hartford indeed seems to catch the light in a manner that is evocative of Claude Monet’s abstracted landscapes of waterlilies. It is no coincidence that Patti Smith once lauded Poons as “our cowboy Monet” in the 1970s. Poons created his Dots paintings only for a short period between 1963 and 1967, before steering his practice towards gestural abstraction, making Jessica’s Hartford an important early painting within Poons’s oeuvre that beautifully captures light, rhythm and color in a manner that seems to expand beyond the confines of the canvas.

Property from a Distinguished European Collection

Ο ◆157

Jessica's Hartford

signed, titled and dated "JESSICA'S HARTFORD 1965 L. Poons" on the stretcher
acrylic on canvas
80 x 128 1/4 in. (203.2 x 325.8 cm.)
Painted in 1965, this work will be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings currently being prepared by the Larry Poons Studio.

This work has been exhibited in both vertical and horizontal orientation.

$1,000,000 - 1,500,000 

Sold for $1,150,000

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th C. & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 13 November 2019