Richard Estes - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale - Morning Session New York Wednesday, November 15, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Jack Glenn Gallery, Los Angeles
    Acquavella Galleries Inc., New York
    Douglas Drake Gallery, Kansas City
    Private Collection
    Sotheby's, London, June 22, 2006, lot 417
    Plus Art Galleries Limited, London
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2006

  • Exhibited

    Wichita, Edwin A. Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita State University, Photo-Realism Exhibition, April 2 - May 4, 1975

  • Literature

    Louis K. Meisel, Richard Estes: The Complete Paintings 1966-1985, New York, 1986, fig. 19, p. 41 (illustrated)
    Jasmijn Post, "Photorealism: the magic of the everyday", BRUZZ, June 28, 2016, online (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Estes invited a way to paint what appears to be two entirely different points of focus – the close-up and the distant panorama – as part of one canvas. Neither the eye nor the camera can capture images in this way, but Estes convinces us that it can be done.”
    (Louis K. Meisel, Photorealism Since 1980, New York, 1993, p. 179)

    Richard Estes emerged on the New York art scene in the late 1960s as part of a group of artists known as the Photorealists. Celebrated for his paintings of urban scenes, Estes records the visual experience of everyday life in New York City, drawing from his own photographs as source material. Rather than paint from a single source image, the artist pieces together his compositions from several different photographs, resulting in the ultra-representational and hyper-focused pictures for which he is renowned. In the following two lots, Car Reflection from 1969 and Flughafen (Airport) from 1981, Estes plays with these multiple perspectives by utilizing reflective surfaces to capture different points of focus, and in doing so, invites the viewer to perceive more than what is normally capable with the naked eye.

    Painted in 1969 just one year after Estes’ first solo exhibition at Allan Stone Gallery in New York City, Car Reflection is an iconic example from the artist’s signature Vehicle Reflection series, executed primarily between 1966 and 1969. In obtaining the source imagery for the present lot, the artist positioned his camera horizontally to capture the reflection of the skyline both in the car window and on the shiny blue exterior of the trunk. The buildings are thus seen through a convex looking glass of both surfaces, encouraging the viewer to contemplate these multiple viewpoints in a single image. Here, Estes depicts the intensely close-up car, the hyper-detailed building which is reflected on the trunk, and the more blurred, indistinct reflection of the same building on the car window. While conflating these three perspectives, Car Reflection nevertheless retains a sense of simplicity and urban calm made possible by the artist’s deliberate reduction of color palette to mostly blues – both in the car’s varnish and the reflection of the sky.

    Of his Vehicle Reflections series, the artist noted, “When I started doing the cars, my idea was to do realism but be abstract at the same time …it was a way of getting that sort of flatness, that quality of abstract painting. Everything is sort of floating around on a flat surface, but at the same time is photographically realistic” (Richard Estes, quoted in Richard Estes: The Complete Paintings 1966-1985, Louis K. Meisel, p. 25). It is thus in these vehicle paintings that Estes comes the closest to abstraction as he would in his career. By employing reflective surfaces, detail images, and playing with the effects of light, he experiments ever so slightly with his own version of abstraction that he himself has defined. Car Reflection from 1969 is particularly emblematic of this, as Estes departs from the extreme precision for which his later works are known. Instead, the artist’s hand is visible on the surface of the present work, particularly in the window reflection where his brushwork is more loose and painterly.

    Executed over a decade later, Flughafen (Airport) from 1981 sees the artist’s transition to the more deliberate, firm brushstroke that is characteristic of his later work. Here, Estes maintains his interest in reflective surfaces and multiple viewpoints, themes that carry throughout his career, yet his painterly technique is more tight and precise. In the present lot, the viewer is situated inside an airport, looking out at both the planes on the runway and in the window’s reflection. Again, Estes limits his color palette to mostly one hue – in this instance greys – as to not overwhelm the viewer with the various perspectives at play. Ultimately, both Car Reflection and Flughafen (Airport) are stellar examples of the artist’s hallmark style, and effectively demonstrate the maturation of Estes’ painterly technique from the late 1960s to the early 1980s.


Car Reflection

signed "RICHARD ESTES" on the reverse
oil on canvas
32 7/8 x 49 3/4 in. (83.5 x 126.4 cm.)
Painted in 1969.

$220,000 - 280,000 

Sold for $250,000

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale - Morning Session

New York Auction 15 November 2017