Marlene Dumas - 20th c. and Contemporary Art Day Sale - Afternoon Session New York Tuesday, December 8, 2020 | Phillips

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  • "There is the image you start with and the image you end up with, and they are not the same. I wanted to give more attention to what the painting does to the image, not only to what the image does to the painting." —Marlene DumasMarlene Dumas’s works circulate around psychological themes of the human condition - love, death, sexuality, and memory. Mining imagery from pop-culture, newspaper clippings and decontextualized film stills, as well as her own photographs of family and friends, Dumas’s phantasmic faces and distorted bodies question the distinctions between context and origin. This selection of eleven intimate drawings and paintings made between 1987 and 2001 from the collection of the late Edward Blake Byrne, is representative of Dumas’s bodily oeuvre in which the artist isolates and fragments her figures.

    Inspired by the birth of her daughter Helena in 1989, a subject the artist continues to depict throughout her career, Dumas has consistently explored the stages of motherhood, beginning with pregnancy and birth. The anticipatory sensation of motherhood is reflected upon in works such as Not born Yet, 1990, Baba Soldaat, 1990, and A Little Devil, 1989. The reality of childbirth and motherhood is felt especially in Baba Soldaat, where an infant with exaggerated proportions stands before the viewer with a soft swirl of pigment sitting in place of a fully developed face.

    In Helena Sleeping, 1989, Dumas invites viewers to observe imagery culled from the registers of her intimate experiences with her daughter. In this work, each feature of the infant’s face is depicted in great detail - the only element left to the viewer’s imagination is the subject’s placement within the black ink wash haze that surrounds her seemingly disembodied head. This prevailing sense of obscurity is indicative of the metaphor of natural and artistic creation that underlines Dumas’s work. Like biological development, Dumas’s artistic practice urges the viewer to question the transmutation of the image as object and subject as well as the differences attributed to it once it takes on a new form.
    "Painting is about the trace of the human touch. It is about the skin of a surface." —Marlene DumasUnlike the works that center around the extensions of the self, The Reflection, 1992, looks inward and addresses issues surrounding self-perception. In The Reflection, a figure shrouded in darkness sits in front of a mirror while her reflection reveals an alternate depiction of her - a phantom-like presence constructed from a thin coat of white and grey paint. The difference between the figure’s body and their own reflection taps into an ongoing theme that characterizes Dumas’s methodology of interrogating the division between one’s public and private self. "I am dealing with emotions that everyone feels. But I'm always conscious of this tension between knowing that you are making an object, a physical thing, and being aware that you are also referring to things [the emotions] that cannot actually be painted. If the painting works, that tension is in there."1

    1 Marlene Dumas quoted in, Marlene Dumas: Measuring Your Own Grave, exh. cat., Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art, 2008, p. 147

    • Provenance

      Galerie Stampa, Basel
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Los Angeles, Angles Gallery, Hidden and Revealed: Representations of Women by Women, November 15, 2014 - January 3, 2015
      Durham, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University; Columbus, The Ohio State University Urban Arts Space; New York, Miriam and Ira D. Wallace Art Gallery, Columbia University; Portland, Ronna and Eric Hoffman Gallery of Contemporary Art, Lewis & Clark College, Open This End: Contemporary Art from the Collection of Blake Byrne, February 19, 2015 - December 11, 2016, no. 64, pp. 102, 114 (illustrated, p. 103)

Property from the Collection of Blake Byrne, Los Angeles


The Woman and the Mirror

signed and dated "M. Dumas 1990" left edge; titled and inscribed "oh NO NOT again! The Woman + the Mirror" upper edge; further inscribed "first the BAD NEWS..." lower left
watercolor and pencil on paper
12 3/4 x 9 5/8 in. (32.4 x 24.4 cm)
Executed in 1990.

Full Cataloguing

$12,000 - 18,000 

Sold for $13,860

Contact Specialist

Rebekah Bowling
Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
New York

1 212 940 1250

20th c. and Contemporary Art Day Sale - Afternoon Session

New York 8 December 2020