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    "It is important that painting always be new for me."
    —Robert Ryman, 2004

     

     

    In 2004, Robert Ryman shockingly declared that he had painted his first “white paintings.” This came as a surprise to most, as the artist had been known to paint in almost exclusively white pigments for the prior five decades. Upon further explanation, Ryman clarified that his previous paintings were executed in the most neutral palette he could envision, which just so happened to be white. His paintings from 2004, as the present example, marked his deliberate choice of white as his very subject matter.

     

     


    James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1, 1871. Musée d'Orsay, Paris 

     

    Series #25 (White) belongs to a discreet body of 33 square “white paintings” executed between 2003-2005, marked by their distinctive titling Series # (White). The series is further differentiated from the artist’s earlier work by the dark primed surface, to which white paint was systematically applied in four different “shades” of the color. In the present work, Ryman applied a thinner, atmospheric wash of white paint to the left of the composition, inviting the darker ground to seductively peek through the surface. At center, a mass of explosive brushwork ranging from opaque to slightly translucent extends across the canvas, engendering an amorphous form that bursts from the canvas. Here, the artist works the paint deeply into the ground, revealing the push and pull of his brush that at once suggests spatial recession and chromatic illumination. The sharp contrast between dark and light causes a sensorial reverberation across the canvas that pulsates with energy before the viewer’s eyes.

     

     

     

    Yayoi Kusama, No. F., 1959. Museum of Modern Art, New York, Image: © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 Yayoi Kusama

    Yayoi Kusama, No. F., 1959. Museum of Modern Art, New York, Image: © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 Yayoi Kusama

     

     

    With the “white paintings,” Ryman situates himself amongst a lineage of artists who have pushed the boundaries of painterly limits in black-and-white. Ryman’s Series #25 (White) particularly recalls Franz Kline’s Painting No. 7, 1952 at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, which fuses gestural velocity with structural elegance to energize the most elementary of chromatic parings. His “white paintings” further echo Yayoi Kusama’s famed Infinity Nets series, which too reveal an obsession with color, repetition, and form.

     

     

     

    Franz Kline, Painting No. 7, 1952. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Artwork: © 2021 The Franz Kline Estate / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Franz Kline, Painting No. 7, 1952. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Artwork: © 2021 The Franz Kline Estate / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

     

     

    By declaring the color white as the subject of his painting, Ryman invites viewers to contemplate whether Series #25 (White) is abstract or figurative. The white form which hovers above the dark ground is both purely illusionistic and perhaps allegoric of things seen in reality. Occupying the liminal space between the abstract and referential, Ryman’s Series #25 (White) embodies the new era in the artist’s oeuvre that drew from his past and simultaneously launched him on a novel path.

    • Provenance

      PaceWildenstein, New York
      Private Collection (acquired from the above in 2004)
      Pace Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, PaceWildenstein, Robert Ryman, November 19, 2004 – January 8, 2005, p. 53 (illustrated, pp. 18, 19)
      New York, Richard L. Feigen & Co., Sublime Convergence: Gothic to the Abstract, May - June 15, 2007, n.p. (illustrated)

Property of a Scandinavian Collector

Ο ◆30

Series #25 (White)

signed, titled and dated "Ryman 04 "SERIES #25" (WHITE)" on the overlap
oil and gesso on canvas
18 x 18 in. (45.7 x 45.7 cm)
Executed in 2004.

This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné being organized by David Gray under number 2004.025.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
$1,000,000 - 1,500,000 

Sold for $1,421,500

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
New York Head of Department & Head of Auctions
+1 212 940 1278
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 17 November 2021