Lee Krasner - 20th C. & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 14, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Video

    Lee Krasner, 'Lame Shadow', Lot 20

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 14 October

  • Provenance

    Pollock-Krasner Foundation, New York
    Robert Miller Gallery, New York
    Jason McCoy Inc., New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2004

  • Exhibited

    Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art; State College, Pennsylvania State University Museum of Art; Waltham, Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Lee Krasner: Collages and Works on Paper 1933-1974, January 11 - October 26, 1975, no. 49
    Houston, Museum of Fine Arts; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Norfolk, Chrysler Museum; Phoenix Art Museum; New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Lee Krasner: A Retrospective (curated by Barbara Rose), October 28, 1983 - February 12, 1985, fig. 88, p. 93 (illustrated, p. 89)
    New York, Robert Miller Gallery, Lee Krasner: Collages, October - November 1986, n.p. (illustrated)
    Museum Wiesbaden, Positions of Art in the 20th Century—50 Women Artists, September 1 - November 25, 1990
    Los Angeles and La Jolla, Tasende Gallery, Lee Krasner: Collages and Paintings, January 10 - April 25, 1998, no. 3, pp. 8, 12 (illustrated, p. 13)

  • Literature

    Robert Taylor, “Lee Krasner Claims Her Place in Art: Lee Krasner at Brandeis”, Boston Evening Globe, September 21, 1975, p. A12
    Robert Hobbs, “Lee Krasner: A Retrospective”, Woman’s Art Journal, vol. 8, no. 1, Spring/Summer 1987, p. 44
    Sandor Kuthy and Ellen G. Landau, Lee Krasner – Jackson Pollock, exh. cat., Kunstmuseum Bern, Musée des beaux-arts de Berne, Bern, 1989/1990, p. 70
    Robert Hobbs, Modern Masters: Lee Krasner, New York, 1993, p. 57
    Ellen G. Landau, Lee Krasner: A Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1995, no. CR 291, pp. 123, 146, 311 (illustrated, p. 148)
    Claudine Ise, "Krasner's Work Lives on Life's Jagged Edges", Los Angeles Times, February 6, 1998

  • Catalogue Essay

    “It started in 1953 – I had the studio hung solidly with drawings, you know, floor to ceiling all around. Walked in one day, hated it all, took it down, tore everything and threw it on the floor, and when I went back...it was seemingly a very destructive act. I don’t know why I did it, except I certainly did it. When I opened the door and walked in, the floor was solidly covered with these torn drawings that I had left and they began to interest me and I started collaging” - Lee Krasner

    Lee Krasner’s Lame Shadow, 1955 belongs to a discrete series of five works, which have been lauded as her “most commanding artistic statements” (Ellen G. Landau, Lee Krasner: A Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1995, p. 146). Using paintings from her 1951 exhibition at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, as a basis for these works made on a monumental scale, they showcase the artist’s expert use of materials to create depth in abstraction. In the present work, Krasner collaged heavy black photographic paper and fraying pieces of canvas resulting in a composition that is both gestural and organic. Inspired by Henri Matisse’s late cut-out paper collages as well as the Cubist compositions of her predecessors, Krasner’s 1955 collages were a turning point in her career. Signified by her acclaimed show at the Stable Gallery, New York that same year, her important position in post-war abstraction has solidified with numerous international exhibitions, most recently her celebrated retrospective held at the Barbican Centre, London earlier this year. With two other works from this discrete series housed in the collections of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo and University Art Museum, California State University, Long Beach, Lame Shadow is the first of these large-scale 1955 works to come to auction.

    Of the origin of her process in these works, Krasner said she saw “a lot of things there [her studio] that began to interest me. I began picking up torn pieces of my own drawings and re-gluing them. Then I start cutting up some of my oil paintings. I’ve got something going here and I start pulling out a lot of raw canvases and slashing [them] as well” (Lee Krasner, quoted in Cindy Nemser, “A Conversation with Lee Krasner”, Arts Magazine, April 1973, p. 45). While her collages from earlier in the decade were comprised of fragments of her own drawings and those of paintings by her husband Jackson Pollock on top of blank canvases, Lame Shadow and its four companion works are unique for their support – existing paintings. After mixed reviews from her 1951 show, Krasner retired the paintings exhibited, each vertically oriented and measuring over six feet in height, and left them abandoned in her studio for a few years. Only two of the 14 works shown at Betty Parsons Gallery are extant in their original state, and only one of the five used in the 1955 collages can be matched to its original painting. Through paint and assemblage, Krasner altered their surfaces so much that they were transformed into completely different masterworks. Of their autobiographical nature, Krasner said “If I’m going back on myself, I’d like to think it’s a form of growth” (Lee Krasner, quoted in Barbara Novak, “Lee Krasner Interview”, WGBH, Boston, October 1979).

    In Lame Shadow, two large black forms are interspersed by mostly vertical strips of canvas, atop and below which pale blue and brick red oil paint stains the surface. As described by Bryan Roberston, Lame Shadow evokes a “calm stillness…in which torn, dark, collaged shapes appear to float over the attenuated vertical bands of lighter color which illuminate the center of the painted ground…as if the collaged elements were becalmed in a mysterious space or suspended in some unfathomable substance or solution” (Bryan Robertson, Lee Krasner: Collages, exh. cat., Robert Miller Gallery, New York, 1986, n.p.). Its composition resembles a plate called Le Cow-boy, from Matisse’s papier découpé album Jazz published in 1947, in which two silhouetted human-like shapes face inward atop a background of blue, yellow and green stripes. Krasner would have been familiar with works like these after seeing a show of the French modernist’s collages at Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York in 1949. Lame Shadow simultaneously resembles Robert Motherwell’s contemporaneous Elegies begun just a decade earlier. While he used paint to create his own shadow-like forms, Krasner relies on pasted paper, something Motherwell himself would employ in his own collages of the 1970s.

    Many of the compositions in the large 1955 collages also emphasize Krasner’s interest in biomorphic forms. A collector of shells, plants and other nature items, Krasner was a lover of the outdoors, but did not feel the need to illustrate what was around her. The use of her surroundings was not for visual recording but for inspiration in process, here demonstrated in her use of found materials from her own studio. “I merge what I call the organic with what I call the abstract...As I see both scales, I need to merge these two into the ever-present. What they symbolized I have never stopped to decide. You might want to read it as matter and spirit and the need to merge as against the need to separate. Or it can be read as male and female” (Lee Krasner, quoted in Cindy Nemser, Art Talk: Conversations with 12 Women Artists, New York, 1975, p. 90).

    The human presence in Lame Shadow is felt not only in these pseudo-figurative forms, but perhaps even more so in the palpability of its surface, reminding us of Krasner’s own laborious process. This is aptly described by Robertson on the occasion of Robert Miller Gallery’s exhibition of her collages in 1986, including the present work: “It is clear that these grandly composed works marked a decisive break in Krasner’s evolution and led to some of her grandest paintings almost immediately afterward. Both the big collages and the paintings of this period are conspicuous for a new scale in which another kind of physicality is projected into the design through the dimensions and scale of Krasner’s own body” (Bryan Robertson, Lee Krasner: Collages, exh. cat., Robert Miller Gallery, New York, 1986, n.p.). It was these qualities that brought Clement Greenberg to call works like Lame Shadow “a major addition to the art scene of that era,” an influence which has continued to have a lasting impact today (Clement Greenberg, quoted in Lee Krasner, Paintings, Drawings, and Collages, exh. cat., Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, 1965, n.p.).

Property of an Important Private Collector


Lame Shadow

signed with the artist’s initials and dated “L.K. ‘55” lower right; further signed and dated "LEE KRASNER - 1955" on the stretcher
oil and collage on canvas
82 1/2 x 58 1/8 in. (209.6 x 147.6 cm.)
Executed in 1955.

$2,000,000 - 3,000,000 

Sold for $2,180,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th C. & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 14 November 2019