Lee Krasner - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 18, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    The Artist
    Susanne Hilberry Gallery, Inc., Birmingham, Michigan
    Edith Emerman Marwil, Michigan
    Private Collection (thence by descent)
    Sotheby's, New York, May 11, 2006, lot 166
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    New York, Stable Gallery, Lee Krasner Collages, September - October 1955
    London, Whitechapel Art Gallery; New York, City Art Gallery; Hull, Ferens Art Gallery; Nottingham, Victoria Street Gallery; Manchester, City Art Gallery; Cardiff, Arts Council Gallery, Lee Krasner: Paintings, Drawings and Collages, September 1965 - October 1966, no. 71
    Miami-Dade Community College; Glenside, Beaver College; Charleston, Gibbes Art Gallery, Lee Krasner: Selections from 1946 - 1972, March - July 1974, no. 17 (illustrated)
    Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art; State College, Pennsylvania State University; Waltham, Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Lee Krasner: Collages and Works on Paper 1933 - 1974, January 11 - February 15, 1975, no. 42, p. 36 (illustrated), pp. 56-57 (installation view illustrated)
    Birmingham, Michigan, Susanne Hilberry Gallery, Lee Krasner, Paintings, November - December 1977

  • Literature

    Griffin Smith, "Lee Krasner - A Re-evaluation at Last", Miami Herald, March 17, 1974, p. G10 (illustrated)
    Ellen G. Landau, Lee Krasner: A Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1995, no. 279, p. 140 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Lee Krasner painted Gold or Silver in 1954 and included the work in her highly acclaimed exhibition at the Stable Gallery in New York City- an exhibition lauded by art critic Clement Greenberg as one of the most important shows of the 1950’s. Bursting with depth and color, Gold or Silver is rendered with the combined medium of paper and oil paint applied to Masonite board. In 1953, after tearing up her own works on paper and throwing them in a jumble onto the floor, Krasner explained that she noticed that “something exciting was happening.” (Cindy Nemser, Art Talk, 1975) Beginning with a small scale collage titled Black and White Collage from 1953-1954, originally in the collection of the photographer Hans Namuth, Krasner explored the potential of both her and her husband Jackson Pollock’s discarded, marked up, paper, studio scraps. Krasner and Pollock favorited Douglass Howell’s paper for their ink drawings; Howell was well known in the art world for producing wove paper without glue, sizing or chemicals: what resulted was a dense paper with rough edges and an energetic surface which, in combination with Krasner’s collage practice, created dynamic depth within her compositions. Krasner also incorporated pieces of Pollock’s torn rice paper ink drawings into her paintings- the fine and absorbent nature of rice paper was pointed out to Pollock by sculptor Tony Smith in 1951. Beginning with a variety of textured, paper collage elements, Krasner soon expanded to cannibalizing canvas. Krasner further elaborates on her exploration into the practice of collage by saying, “Well, it started with drawings. Then I took my canvases and cut and began doing the same thing, and that ended in my collage show in 1955” and the creation and public display of the present lot, Gold or Silver. (Lee Krasner quoted in Barbaralee Diamonstein, Inside New York’s Art World, New York, 1979, p. 205)

    The fragments of drawings that comprise the present lot allude to Krasner’s art historical interest in medieval mosaic techniques and the Cubist flattening and interlocking of forms. These collaged compositions represent Krasner’s means of re-activating discarded works, which established a path from destruction to highly successful creations such as Gold or Silver; “Collage, moreover, permitted Krasner to find a way out of an impasse that had been troubling her for some years, a problem exacerbated by the division between color and line studies in the Hofmann School. That was the problem of how to create shapes without separating line from color, or simply using color to fill in contour in the manner of academic art. In post-Cubist art, shape was to be defined by edge rather than depicted by line.” (Barbara Rose, Lee Krasner: A Retrospective, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1983, p. 75) Inspired by Matisse’s cutouts, which Krasner viewed at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York in 1949, she was responsive to a medium that would allow her to overcome her artistic disappointments and redefine the concept of color field painting by creating shapes out of pre-existing forms through the act of tearing and cutting up paper. The typical flatness of collage is counterbalanced by the tactility of her materials and the rhythm of their strategic placement. The 1955 exhibition at the Stable Gallery revealed a body of work described by artist Fairfield Porter in the November 1955 issue of Art News as “abstractions, in oil and oil-plus-collage….Krasner’s art, which seems be about nature, instead of making the spectator aware of a grand design, makes him aware of a subtle disorder greater than what one otherwise might have thought possible.” Krasner found inspiration for her collages in the natural world, she commented that “I can’t conceive of anything that doesn’t have this kind of organic, rudimentary form . . . My work is founded in this prescribed thing called nature.” (Lee Krasner quoted in Emily Wasserman, Unpublished Interview with Lee Krasner, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., p. 9)

    Krasner pre-prepared her prescriptive elements and while gazing down at the fragments of earlier experiments in relation to their new support she built up her imagery piece by piece, stepping back periodically to absorb the progress of her overall composition and the tactile landscape that was emerging. The hints of botanical and natural forms found in Gold or Silver renew a surface that is purposefully devoid of the heroic horizontality of Pollock except in overall shape. Krasner resists the expansive scale of Abstract Expressionism and discovers the minute patterns of an intimate, seemingly disordered, yet carefully composed masterpiece. Fellow artist Robert Goodnough has described the feeling of viewing Krasner’s pieces by saying, “One comes away with the feeling of having been journeying through an uninhibited land of quiet color.” (Robert Goodnough quoted in Gail Levin,Lee Krasner: A Biography, New York, 2011, p. 275)


Gold or Silver

signed and dated "Lee Krasner '54" lower left
oil and paper collage on Masonite
48 x 61 3/4 in. (121.9 x 156.8 cm.)
Executed in 1954.

$1,000,000 - 1,500,000 

Sold for $1,690,000

Contact Specialist
Kate Bryan
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1267

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 18 May 2017