Suzan Frecon - New Now New York Tuesday, September 28, 2021 | Phillips
  • "The merging of form, color, light, material, and texture rewards extended looking... Each work stirs up different wordless feelings, even as we eventually come back to words to try and understand what happened."
    —John Yau on the work of Suzan Frecon

    Suzan Frecon’s paintings “are not pictures that you look at,” the artists claims, “they are paintings you experience.”1 Planned and executed with mathematical precision, Frecon’s abstract canvases balance proportion and texture to form an expert study in the optical qualities of color. In Dark and Light (with Homage to Manet), a dramatic off-white band stretches horizontally across a panoramic background, infusing the vast canvas with palpable dynamism and a distinct sense of drama. Executed in the late 1980s, this painting is an early example of Frecon’s practice and attests to her careful consideration of material, texture, and luminosity. With works in such esteemed institutions as the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and The Menil Collection, Houston, Frecon has carved a place for herself as a leading painter of our time.


    The titular reference to the early modernist aside, Frecon’s “homage” obliquely conjures associations with Manet’s work and the plays of light in his canvasses. Perhaps evocative of Manet’s The Dead Toreador, likely painted in 1864, Frecon’s brush transfigures passages of paint, reminiscent of the ripples and folds of the slain bullfighter’s garments, into disparate bands of light. Frecon accelerates the abstraction of the light that ricochets from Manet’s scene, narrowing her focus to reconstruct the elemental details of the composition; one might therefore regard this work as an ode to painting itself, its forms tracing a brushstroke across a canvas, or following the path of an illuminating beam of light.


    Édouard Manet, The Dead Toreador, circa 1864. Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington.

    Frecon’s abstract references to the figurative works of Manet convey a deep respect for the artist’s expertise and for the history of painting. Light, darkness and the material aspects of paint across time become more vital than simply standard art historical affinities. Overt allusions to representation or to art history few and far between in Frecon’s work, but Dark and Light (with Homage to Manet) is distinguished as a rare example of the artist’s direct painterly acknowledgement of those that worked long before her.

    "A work of art can only be comprehended by looking at it [and] no description is a substitute for this."
    —Gervase of Canterbury

    Yet rather than situate herself in the canon of painting, Frecon focuses on the here-and-now of her work: the glossiness of its painted surface; the effects of the natural light in which she demands the work be exhibited; and the viewer’s emotional response to their encounter with the painting. A quintessential example of Frecon’s early practice, Dark and Light (with Homage to Manet) provides a fascinating and important insight into the artist’s longstanding attention to composition and to her continued engagement with the history of painting.


    1 Suzan Frecon, exh. cat., David Zwirner Gallery, New York and London, 2017, p. 62

    • Provenance

      Private Collection (acquired directly from the artist)
      Thence by descent to the present owner

Minimalist Paintings from an Important Private Collection


Dark and Light (with Homage to Manet)

signed and dated "Suzan Frecon '85­; '86+ '91" on the reverse; further titled "Dark and Light (with homage to Manet)" on the overlap; further signed and titled "Dark and Light (with homage to Manet) Frecon" on the stretcher
oil on canvas
60 1/2 x 110 in. (153.7 x 279.4 cm)
Painted in 1985–1986, 1991.

Full Cataloguing

$120,000 - 180,000 

Contact Specialist

Patrizia Koenig

Head of New Now Sale

212 940 1279

New Now

New York Auction 28 September 2021