Robert Mangold - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, October 2, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Video

    Robert Mangold, 'A Curved Line and a Diagonal within a Distorted Rectangle (Yellow)', Lot 30

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 2 October 2019

  • Provenance

    Annemarie Verna Gallery, Zurich
    Philippe Andre Rihoux, Brussels
    Maruani & Noirhomme Gallery, Brussels
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Schaffhausen, Hallen für neue Kunst; Paris, RENN Espace d’Art Contemporain; Münster, Westfälisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte; Lisbon, Culturgest C.G.D., Robert Mangold: Painting as Wall, Werke von 1964 - 1993, 2 May 1993 - 22 October 1995, p. 130 (illustrated, p. 131)

  • Literature

    Robert Mangold. Schilderijen/Paintings 1964 - 1982, exh. cat., Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1982, no. 387, n.p.
    Richard Shiff, Robert Storr, Arthur C. Danto and Nancy Princenthal, Robert Mangold, London, 2000, p. 214 (illustrated, p. 215)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Confronting the viewer with a bold and exuberant swathe of unmodulated colour, A Curved Line and a Diagonal within a Distorted Rectangle (Yellow), 1978, follows Robert Mangold’s extensive, career-long fascination with monochromatic surfaces and precision of line. One of a select few to manage the effortless translation of mathematical principles, rooted in Renaissance explorations of Classical geometry into a visual grammar evidently designed for aesthetic consumption and critique, Mangold has here made an understated but crucial intervention, creating a distortion to the canvas’s traditional rectangular form, as expressed in A Curved Line's full title. The subtlety of the mutually-bisecting pencil lines that divide the support is inversely proportional to their role as a signifier within Mangold’s oeuvre. The cross-shape reaches energetically into all four corners of the painting, anticipating Mangold’s celebrated X-shaped canvases as well as his exploration of geometrical canvases more broadly.

    Having studied and experienced Renaissance investigations into structural compositions during his travels to Italy in the mid-1970s, Mangold has fed his work with the seminal principles proposed by Euclid and Vitruvius, and effectively moved beyond these timeless instructions by situating them within a distinctly contemporary sensibility. The present work’s dimensions, in its human scale, subtly anthropomorphises the lines into a Modernist distillation of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. As noted by art historian Robert Storr, ‘The Vitruvian man...his arms and legs designate a circle nested within a square, anthropomorphizing those basic shapes and making him one with Platonic order. Where you see a graphite X or O or 8 in Mangold's work, or a rectangle or triangle, you see a measure of a man. These devices are never simply abstract; they are always latently figurative’ (Robert Storr, quoted in Richard Shiff, ed., Robert Mangold, London, 2000, p. 91).

    The exacting proportions and near-sculptural presence of A Curved Line invoke an architect’s attention to draughtsmanship and detail, which along with its reduction of form and densely theoretical genealogy of influences, aligns Mangold with the work of Minimalist and Conceptualist peers such as Robert Ryman and Sol LeWitt, whom he met while they all worked as guards at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The artist’s pieces often appear as objects rather than straightforward images; challenging the typical concept of a painting as a window, A Curved Line resolutely severs the viewer’s suspension of disbelief at the point of entry. Mangold reveals, ‘I realized what painting’s unique reality was: neither object nor window. It existed in the space between’ (Robert Mangold, quoted in Robert Mangold: Paintings, 1990-2002, exh. cat., Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, 2003, p. 21). Alongside that of his Minimalist peers, Mangold’s work interrogates the privileging of the gestural stroke and unmitigated romantic painterly outpourings which dominated the art world during the reign of the Abstract Expressionists, and instead replaces it with a beautifully controlled tranquillity, all the while avoiding the appearance of the mechanical.

    The taxonomical approach to titling his works, coupled with their simplicity of form is a Mangold trademark. As the artist himself states, ‘A work's self-referential qualities...[are why] I title works the way I do. In fact I don't title them, I describe them as simply as I can’ (Robert Mangold, quoted in Richard Shiff, ed., Robert Mangold, London, 2000, p. 8). A Curved Line’s formal unity and restraint belies the abundant cultural heritage which underpins it, spanning references from Classical Antiquity to the Zips of Barnett Newman, and standing in as a Platonic Form of the canon. Through this display of a quiet mastery of the two-dimensional, Mangold can unequivocally be singled out as one of the pre-eminent artists of his generation.

    Mangold’s works have been given due credit across an international spectrum of institutions, including monographic shows at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Kunsthalle Basel and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. His work has been included in both the landmark Documenta survey in Kassel and the Whitney Biennial three times. His institutional pedigree would not be complete without a feature at the Venice Biennale, where his works were also shown in 1993.

Property of an Important Belgian Collector


A Curved Line and a Diagonal within a Distorted Rectangle (Yellow)

signed, titled and dated 'R. Mangold 1978 A Curved and a Diagonal line within a Distorted Rectangle' on the reverse
acrylic and pencil on canvas
200.5 x 136 cm (78 7/8 x 53 1/2 in.)
Executed in 1978.

£300,000 - 400,000 

Sold for £423,000

Contact Specialist

Olivia Thornton
Senior Director
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+44 20 7318 4099


Rosanna Widén
Director, Senior Specialist
+44 20 7318 4060

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 2 October 2019