Richard Pettibone - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale New York Wednesday, May 17, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
    Curt Marcus Gallery, New York
    Private Collection
    The Page Gallery, Seoul
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    In 1962, Richard Pettibone attended Andy Warhol’s first show of paintings at the Ferus Gallery, hosted in his own hometown of Los Angeles. A year later, Pettibone visited Pasadena where Marcel Duchamp’s major 1963 retrospective was on view. Together, these two shows inspired Pettibone to jumpstart his own artistic career, influenced by the different, yet undoubtedly similar values present in the works of these two artists. After impressing both Warhol and the Pop master’s gallerist Leo Castelli with his early paintings on a visit to New York in 1965, Pettibone returned to Los Angeles and immediately received an offer from the director of Ferus Gallery, Irving Blum, for his first solo show.

    The following selection of works date from the very beginning of Pettibone’s prolific career up until recent years, thus spanning four decades of his oeuvre. The earliest of these from 1963 is titled Le petit blanc, created just before the artist’s first foray into the 1960s art scene. Named for the French table wine label pressed to the inside of the glass, this work showcases the artist’s meticulous talent in three-dimensional assemblage, his first preferred medium. In fact, the train on display inside the shadow box is directly influenced by Pettibone’s interest in model making, specifically of toy trains and automobiles. These early assemblages illustrate an appreciation for the miniature that would continue to be seen throughout the entirety of the artist’s career. As such, Le petit blanc is a rare example of Pettibone’s early craftsmanship, which was just a few years later replaced by the appropriations he has come to be known for.

    Four works completed between 1965 to 1969 are stellar examples of the earliest of Pettibone’s appropriations, paying homage to the artists he was particularly inspired by including Duchamp and Jasper Johns. The two early Duchamp works, Marcel Duchamp, “Belle Haleine: Eau de Voilette”, 1921 (violet) and Duchamp Profile, each measure under six inches in height, reducing the Duchampian readymade and recognizable imagery to an even more houseable scale. In the group of Pop artists for whom Pettibone was drawn to, Duchamp may stand out as an outlier, yet he remains even today one of the artist’s most revered muses. As the artist has recently said, “my response to Duchamp hasn’t changed at all in the last 34 years. His work is just as beautiful…in spite of all that talk about chance and giving up taste etc. Duchamp’s work is still drop dead gorgeous” (Richard Pettibone, quoted in Francis M. Naumann, “Appropriating Duchamp, Appropriately” in Richard Pettibone: A Retrospective, exh. cat., The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, 2005, p. 23). Indeed, Pettibone would later revisit Duchamp’s oeuvre, as exemplified by his work Marcel Duchamp, “Bicycle Wheel”, 1913-1964 #1 from 2001, the most recent of the present selection. This work, too, shrinks one of Duchamp’s readymades to a smaller scale, meticulously hand-painted in oil on canvas.

    It is this tiny scale that is perhaps the most defining characteristic of Pettibone’s masterworks. When first appropriating the paintings of Warhol and Johns in the 1960s, Pettibone obtained his source imagery not from the physical works themselves, but from illustrations of the works in early issues of ArtForum, thus matching the images’ scales in flat, printed form. In appropriating the pictures this way, Pettibone makes, as he continues to do, a statement on the different formats in which art is conveyed to the public. As Michael Duncan aptly explained, “by reducing such subjects back to more or less their original diminutive sizes, Pettibone emulated how photography and vision itself shrinks the world into digestible images…His works make us see that all art is a kind of miniature, condensing larger experiences into compact spaces”. This is evident in Jasper Johns, “Tennyson” from 1965.

    In the 1970s, Pettibone looked to a different source of inspiration for his paintings—the museum space. Both lots 197 and 198 from 1978 and 1975 combine the artist’s early interest in assemblage with appropriation. The resulting works are photorealist, painted illustrations of Pettibone’s own photographs taken at various exhibitions, the first of which includes works by old masters such as Vermeer, while the second features two works exhibited side by side by Minimalist masters Brice Marden and Robert Morris. In the first of these, lot 197, Pettibone’s fascination with assemblage is evident in the jigsaw nature of the composition of images, the whole group of which is even still restricted to the small size of under two feet squared.

    In the range of subject matter that Pettibone has looked to throughout his career, one can see the artist’s admiration for key players in the art historical trajectory. And yet, in his quite distinct recontexualization of their most recognized masterpieces, Pettibone garners his own place alongside them. As Duncan poignantly espoused, “Pettibone presents modern art history as a kind of miniature railroad with stops along the way at Pop Art, Photorealism, Conceptual Art, and photography, all scrutinized, simulated, and commemorated in works that show the meticulous care of a master model maker” (Michael Duncan, “A Snow Shovel Is Nice” in Richard Pettibone: A Retrospective, exh. cat., The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, 2005, p. 11).


Marcel Duchamp, 'Bicycle Wheel', 1913-1964

signed, titled and dated ""Marcel Duchamp, ‘Bicycle Wheel’, 1913-1964" #1 Richard Pettibone 2001" on the reverse
oil on canvas, in artist's frame
11 1/4 x 7 3/4 in. (28.7 x 19.7 cm.)
Painted in 2001.

$20,000 - 30,000 

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

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

New York Auction 17 May 2017