Pat Steir - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 17, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Robert Miller Gallery, New York
    Jaffe Baker Blau Gallery, Boca Raton
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1994

  • Literature

    Thomas McEvilley, Pat Steir, New York, 1995, no. 67 (illustrated, p. 152)
    Anne Waldman, "Pat Steir," BOMB, no. 83, April 1, 2003 (online)

    The Manuel D. and Rhoda Mayerson Foundation is a private family foundation known for its innovative and involved grantmaking. The Foundation has supported world changing efforts such as Disability Rights Education Defense Fund that played a critical role in establishing and defending the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as the VIA Institute on Character that established a scientific initiative to understand how people build good lives for themselves and others. From these non-profits alone the Foundation’s grantmaking has impacted hundreds of millions of people worldwide. The Foundation focuses on areas where it can serve a catalytic role with its support and it honors the legacy of its founders to support the Jewish community along with the broader community.

  • Catalogue Essay

    “For me, these paintings are meditations on nature. The nature of paint. The nature of color. The nature of landscape. The nature of a single gesture. The nature of nature. Of time. I also want to make paintings that take the viewer and me to a new thought of a new way of seeing what may have already been felt but not formulated.”
    - Pat Steir

    In Pat Steir’s Elective Affinity Waterfall, rivulets of blue and yellow paint cascade, flick and splatter across the vast expanse of the red canvas. Painted in 1992, just a year before the artist's participation in the 45th Venice Biennale, this work is one of the largest of Steir's extraordinary waterfall paintings from the late 1980s and 1990s that garnered her widespread critical acclaim. Titled Elective Affinity Waterfall in reference to J.W. Goethe’s eponymous novel and his theory of color more generally, it is among the first waterfall paintings that saw Steir embrace the primary colors of red, yellow and blue after limiting herself to a monochrome palette in the four years prior. As with Yellow and Blue One-Stroke Waterfall, 1992, which resides in the collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, this painting celebrates the expressive power of color - its visceral impact palpable as it captivates the viewer with a similar sense of the sublime when experiencing an epic waterfall in nature.

    Steir’s waterfall paintings represent the culmination of her earlier conceptual practice, which probed the history and materiality of painting through distinct bodies of work that formally quoted such predecessors as Northern Renaissance master Pieter Brueghel the Elder or Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai. While critical of the term “postmodernism", Steir’s art historical dialogue with the past was part of the same broader revisionist impulse that would later drive the work of artists from the Pictures Generation. As Steir, who was a generation younger than Abstract Expressionists such as Jackson Pollock or Barnett Newman, explained of these works, “These paintings are in a sense a comment on the New York School, a dialogue and a wink. They say ‘You didn’t go far enough. You stopped when you saw abstraction. You didn’t see the full circle.’…I've taken the drip and tried to do something with it that Modernists denied. The Image” (Pat Steir, quoted in Brooks Adams, Pat Steir: Elective Affinities, exh. cat., Robert Miller Gallery, New York, 1992, n.p.).

    Connecting abstract painting with Asian traditions, particularly 17th century Chinese landscape painting, Steir developed a distinct technique that exploits the figurative potential of abstraction. While Steir initially explored the chance potential of gravity by applying a paint-filled brush against a wall-hung canvas, Elective Affinity Waterfall demonstrates how her conceptual painting technique as of 1989 also embraced splashing paint directly against the canvas. In reference to the Chinese and Japanese “flung-ink style”, Steir creates the middle area of the canvas by flicking or flinging paint from the end of the brush. While Steir determines the color and the flow by varying degrees of dilution, she does not mix them - allowing them instead to produce a range of secondary colors as they meet on the canvas and cohere to the effect of a waterfall.

    Elective Affinity Waterfall is not merely meant to be a painting of a waterfall, but be a waterfall. Waterfalls symbolize eternal beginnings and endings in Chinese art and here, too, come to stand as meditations on the flow of time. Transcending the intellectual and the pur-ported binary between representation and abstraction, this painting invites us to reconsider new ways of thinking, feeling and seeing.

Property from the Mayerson Foundation


Elective Affinity Waterfall

titled twice "Elective Affinitys" on the stretcher
oil on canvas
111 x 147 in. (281.9 x 373.4 cm.)
Painted in 1992.

$600,000 - 800,000 

Sold for $2,295,000

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

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 17 May 2018