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  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    Rudolf Stingel is one of the most interesting artists of the last decades. His works are imbued with a thorough knowledge of art history and a sophisticated irony on taste and art. His oeuvre radically challenges the limits given to art, in particular to painting, and re-evaluates its possibilities. As Francesco Bonami put it, Stingel’s work "redefine what painting can be, what it has been, and what it is". Untitled shows a duality in the decorative pattern, referencing luxurious oriental carpets, domestic hand-woven textiles and kitsch wall paper design. These associations enrich the work while conferring visual elegance. The work is part of his wallpaper paintings, a composition of repeated units of decorative monochromes, mechanically reproduces. The layering of meanings and references of this work reaffirm his position as conceptual artist; at the same time his mesmerizing surfaces balance the conceptual with a delicate and sophisticated appearance that pleases and seduces the eye.

    Since the Renaissance, oriental carpets have been a sophisticated and luxurious element of design for royal and religious interiors as many paintings by Lotto, Bellini and others testify. Oriental carpets were associated with wealth, class and power. At the same time embroidery is connected to craft, domesticity and femininity, all aspects that contrast the opulence of the large size canvas on the wall. The monochrome disrupts the traditional grisaille paintings and the modernist fascination with a single colour on the canvas. The silver colour in particular clashes ideas of decadence, preciousness and asceticism together. The use of the silver hue is here re-invented in an ironic key: the spiritual associations are brought down to the everyday world. Furthermore, the use of monochrome plays with Piero Manzoni’s Achromes by inverting the artist’s own statement: "anything superfluous and all interpretative possibilities are excluded (from the canvas)."

    Some aspects of the painting remind of American Abstract Expressionism. The choice of a big scale canvas, and the application of paint all over the surface leave no beginning, middle or end to its content but just a ‘all overness’ typically associated with Jackson Pollock’s paintings. The viewer is given no focus to guide his gaze, but is left free to scan the surface of the canvas, take in the monumentality of the canvas’ presence on the wall. The physicality of the canvas is further emphasised by the absence of the frame; however importance given to the canvas’ presence on the wall is counterbalanced by the physicality of the decorative pattern on the surface thus Untitled undermines from within Abstract Expressionist dictums.

    The mechanical process of applying art is evident and it attacks the authority and originality of the artist. For the 1989 Venice Biennale, Stingel created Instructions, Istruzioni, Anleitung..., a manuscript published in various languages that details the materials and procedures of making a ‘Stingel-painting’. The artist self-destructs his own authorship onto his works and ideas creating a vehicle for a democratization of art and the unveiling of the aura that surrounds the artist as ‘genius’. In this way anyone can make art of the highest level. In a way Stingel creates the incipit for the creation of a potential community of artists in which originality has no importance. The democratic approach of the artist is further evident in the choice of materials for his works which links his practice to Italian Arte Povera. Stingel spans from Styrofoam to oil on canvas, from Aluminium-coated panelling to rubber. Often these different mediums are exhibited together and strangely they harmonise visually, thus upsetting the purity of the medium.

    Untitled floats between real and imaginary and the viewer is made very aware of this. The seriality and mechanic process of the work is undermined by the idiosyncrasies of each painting. The slight corruptions of the pattern reveal a human input, conferring an organic nature and a certain uniqueness to each piece. Stingel manages to synthesise mechanical process and subjectivity.

    The viewer is made complicit throughout, playing a crucial role in the conceptual nature of the painting. The carpet conventionally thought of as a feature for the floor is here dragged onto the wall at eye level, to arm’s length. Boundaries between design and art become blurred and the viewer is made aware of the space around him, of the everyday dismissal of the floor, in favour of the walls as site for art. Just like Duchamp’s 1200 Coal Sacks (1938) realised the artistic potentials of the ceiling, so Stingel reveals how nowadays we take for granted the decorative potentialities of the floor and the carpet. At the same time it disrupts the notion of wall painting as a cheap and kitsch design and re-values it as valid content for a painting. This work cleverly destabilizes the hierarchy between the elements of the interior space, between design and art and between content and context. Furthermore by celebrating in such majestic way the quasi-kitsch decorative pattern, the artist provokes the ‘sanctity’ of the white cube walls just like his photorealist paintings of medieval carvings of saints. Disruption of how we perceive interior space.

    Stingel puts himself into a flirtatious game with craft and high art, modernism and postmodern scepticism on painting, without criticism or taking any side. At the same time his conceptual use of the monochrome and the elevation of the decorative pattern to high art evoke comparisons with Piero Manzoni and Andy Warhol. The subtlety of the associations and implications work in subliminal way and slowly the viewer realises the artificial structure that has been imposed upon painting, the ways art subverts these structures and re-institutionalises unproblematically. Stingel’s painting is a painting which was not painted, which is not carpet, which is not abstract or figurative. But it’s a silent question mark: what is painting? The best art is the one which is critical about itself. Stingel subtly and consistently reveals the mechanics of the production of art and the construction of conventions within art history, without asserting the death of painting, on the contrary giving new possibilities in terms of context and content.

    Stingel goes beyond the simple blurring of high and low art, proposing instead an ‘artistic heterotopia’ an ideal site, a represented utopia, at the same time physical and intellectual, in which different practices and ideologies of art coexist. Untitled is a fundamental piece of Stingel’s radical self-reflection and celebration of the art of painting.

  • 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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Ο13

Untitled

2010
oil on canvas
210 x 170 cm (82 5/8 x 66 7/8 in.)
Signed and dated "Stingel 2010" on the reverse.

Estimate
£350,000 - 450,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £470,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
[email protected]
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Evening Sale 10 February 2014 7pm