Pat Steir - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Wednesday, November 15, 2023 | Phillips

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  • “I don't think of these paintings as abstract. Quite the opposite in fact. These are not only drips of paint. They're paintings of drips.”
    —Pat Steir 
    In Pat Steir’s Untitled, 1997, three discrete swathes of white gush forth in a dramatic composition. Rivulets of paint stream down at varying density, a result of Steir’s distinctive approach to applying solvent-diluted oil paint across her canvas, grounded with a dramatic matte black. Steir’s drips are the result of a delicate orchestration and submission to chance, yielding a seductive pictorial illusion that transcends mere aesthetic beauty. The gestures in Untitled embody both the act of creation and surrender to the unpredictable forces of fluid dynamics in a wonderful visual and philosophical statement.


    Steir’s work builds upon the work of her Abstract Expressionist and Minimalist forebears, respectively pushing forward their painterly processes and conceptual modalities to develop a unique approach. While her work draws comparison to Jackson Pollock, their similarities are principally aesthetic, resulting from the artists’ relinquishing of brushwork. Her work builds upon Minimalist thought, drawing inspiration from artists like Agnes Martin, whose reductive means and purity of vision left a lasting impression on Steir. From outside the realm of the visual, John Cage imparted the importance of “non-doing,” inviting the role of chance. Steir’s work also draws inspiration from Daoist thought on elemental forces and Chinese and Japanese painting traditions, principally the Haboku “flung-ink” style and techniques of 8th and 9th century Yi-pin painters.

    “The paint itself makes the picture…. Gravity makes the image.”
    —Pat Steir

    Steir's Waterfall series exemplifies her commitment to a single reiterated process of spilling, pouring and splashing paint to canvas. Untitled also exhibits the development of Steir’s practice with the introduction of bright, primary colors applied in contrast to the vertical streams of white. Red, yellow and blue pigments add depth and complexity to the composition. The center of the work comes to life through this contrast, while the dense up-splash at the bottom nods particularly to the "flung-ink" style.


    In Steir's own words, “these paintings are meditations on nature. The nature of paint. The nature of color. The nature of landscape. The nature of a singular gesture. The nature of nature. The nature of time.”i Through her work, she invites viewers to contemplate the essence of these elements and their interconnectedness, creating a visual language that transcends cultural boundaries and speaks to the universal aspects of nature and the human experience. Pat Steir's Untitled stands as a testament to the enduring power of art to simultaneously incorporate diverse traditions and engage in a profound exploration of the nature of creation.



    i Holland Cotter in Pat Steir Waterfalls, exh. cat., Robert Miller Gallery, New York, 1990, n.p.

    • Provenance

      Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago
      Acquired from the above by the present owner



signed and titled "UNTITLED PAT STEIR" on the overlap; signed with the artist's initials and dated "PS97" on the overlap
oil on canvas
36 x 36 in. (91.4 x 91.4 cm)
Painted in 1997.

Full Cataloguing

$120,000 - 180,000 

Sold for $228,600

Contact Specialist

Patrizia Koenig 
Specialist, Head of Sale, Afternoon Session
+1 212 940 1279 

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 15 November 2023