Rudolf Stingel - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 14, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

  • Exhibited

    New York, Paula Cooper Gallery, Rudolf Stingel, New Styrofoam Works, April 22 - June 9, 2000
    New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Singular Forms (Sometimes Repeated): Art from 1951 to the Present, March 5 - May 19, 2004

  • Literature

    Rudolf Stingel, New Styrofoam Works, exh. cat., Paula Cooper Gallery, New York, 2000, n.p. (illustrated)
    Singular Forms (Sometimes Repeated): Art from 1951 to the Present, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2004, p. 156 (illustrated)
    F. Giraud & P. Ségalot, The Impossible Collection: The 100 Most Coveted Artworks of the Modern Era, Assouline: New York, 2009, no. 100 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Since the late 1980s, Rudolf Stingel has questioned the limits of his practice with relentless imagination. His work continually re-examines the genres in which it participates, yielding renewed definitions and expanded possibilities. His is a practice in which deconstruction and decoration collide, and in which the role of the artist is subject to perpetual re-examination.

    In 1989, Stingel published Instructions. A provocative handbook, it set out a series of guidelines by which to replicate the artist’s painting style. As Amanda Coulson notes, the work “immediately encapsulates the artist’s tongue-in-cheek attitude toward his work, dissociating himself from the mythology of the artist–genius and assimilating the viewer into his theoretical and practical approach.” (Amanda Coulson, Rudolf Stingel: Galleria Massimo de Carlo, Frieze Magazine, Issue 86, October 2004) Indeed Stingel is an artist whose playfulness continually borders on iconoclasm. His pieces redirect the painterly gaze, often making use of floors and carpets. As Jean-Pierre Criqui notes, the latter “first appeared in Stingel’s work in the form of a bright orange plush carpet that could cover either a floor (at the Daniel Newburg Gallery, New York, 1991) or a wall (at the Venice Biennale 1993)” (Jean Pierre Criqui, “Rudolf Stingel. Captions”, Rudolf Stingel Palazzo Grassi 2013, Milan: Mondadori, 2013, p.12). Since then, floors have become an enduring concern, recurrent in much of his work.

    The present lot Untitled of 2000 shares this interest. To create the work, Stingel walked across four Styrofoam panels in lacquer thinner-coated boots, effectively melting the white material below. As Criqui notes, the piece “inevitably [evokes] expanses of snow which people have walked across” (Jean Pierre Criqui, “Rudolf Stingel. Captions”, Rudolf Stingel Palazzo Grassi 2013, Milan: Mondadori, 2013, p.14). Yet despite the intimation of tundra, the piece somehow exists beyond any specific locale. It put forth an abstracted landscape that recalls the work of Gerhard Richter, not least in that it draws attention to the artist’s mark. The present lot is a document of process; the prints which decorate the surface are traces of action that direct the viewer’s attention to the moment of creation. Yet this moment remains fundamentally evasive; far from self-evident, it requires reconstruction on behalf of the viewer. Whilst the shoeprints on the left hand panels reveal the artist’s path, the overlaid imprints on the right hand side obscure any kind of linear route. The left hand panels bespeak remoteness, suggesting an isolated individual trailing across an empty landscape. By contrast, the right hand panels abound with activity and teem with disorder. The frenzy of shoeprints suggests multitudes, recursion, and crossing paths. They imagine a landscape of coming-and-going, a palimpsest of half-remembered movement.

    Discussing his practice, Stingel opines “I walk on my paintings because I want to hurt them.” (Rudolf Stingel, “Shit, How Are You Going to Do This One?”, Flash Art, Issue 291, July - September). The present lot, and its eroded surface, makes manifest this desire to inflict damage. The violent gesture, however, is not one of nihilistic anger; in Stingel’s hands, it becomes its own form of creation. He deconstructs with vehement purpose and a kind of perverse optimism, bringing to the fore the latent potentials of his craft. Speaking about his 2013 project at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice, Stingel explains “the task was to unite the three floors with their mazy rooms to one giant installation. To cover the floors and walls with a patterned carpet would annihilate the existing architecture and create a space in which gravity and scale were abolished.” (Rudolf Stingel, “Shit, How Are You Going to Do This One?”, Flash Art, Issue 291, July – September). Here too, destruction and creation coexist. In order to create an environment, Stingel must first dismantle, or obscure, another.

    The present lot, namely the right hand panels, reveal an extreme version of this dynamic. One route across the Styrofoam surface is covered by another until few are identifiable. All narratives become obscured by their interaction with others. What remains are decontextualized marks, swarming across the surface. In this sense, the piece reflects on history as much as artistry, revealing the process by which events become entangled and submerged. Rudolf Stingel’s work is characterized by curiosity and ambition. As Roberta Smith puts it “his art asks what are paintings, who makes them, and how?” (Roberta Smith, “The Threads That Tie A Show Together”, New York Times, August 20 2013) In his formulations, the painter’s identity, practices and values are constantly shifting. The present lot picks up these concerns, and this resistance to fixed categorisation. From the very offset, it disorientates: although piece of ground, it is hung vertically. The more time one spends with the piece, the more this disorientation grows. The maze of indentations perplexes as it intrigues, drawing attention not only to its own materiality but to a nexus of potential narratives.

  • Artist Biography

    Rudolf Stingel

    Italian • 1956

    Rudolf Stingel came to prominence in the late 1980s for his insistence on the conceptual act of painting in a context in which it had been famously declared dead. Despite the prevailing minimalist and conceptual narrative of the time, the Italian-born artist sought to confront the fundamental aspirations and failures of Modernist painting through the very medium of painting itself. While his works do not always conform to the traditional definitions of painting, their attention to surface, space, color and image provide new and expanded ways of thinking about the process and "idea" of painting. Central to his multifarious and prolific oeuvre is an examination of the passage of time and the probing of the fundamental questions of authenticity, meaning, hierarchy, authorship and context by dislocating painting both internally and in time and space. Stingel is best known for his wall-to-wall installations, constructed of fabric or malleable Celotex sheets, as well as his seemingly more traditional oil-on-canvas paintings.

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styrofoam, 4 panels
each panel 48 x 96 x 4 in. (120 x 240 x 10 cm)
overall 96 x 192 x 4 in. ( 240 x 480 x 10 cm)

Initialed and annotated "RS-156-PTG" on the reverse of each panel.

$1,000,000 - 1,500,000 

Sold for $1,145,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Stoffel
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1261

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Evening Sale 14 May 2015 7pm