lots-to-watch:-works-by-20th-century-pioneers-ed-clark,-norman-lewis,-peter-bradley,-and-romare-bearden-featured-in-‘new-now’-auction-at-phillips

Lots To Watch: Works By 20th Century Pioneers Ed Clark, Norman Lewis, Peter Bradley, And Romare Bearden Featured In ‘New Now’ Auction At Phillips

Lot 23: ED CLARK, “Gray Force,” 1972 (acrylic on canvas, 83 x 111 inches / 210.8 x 281.9 cm). | Estimate $400,000-$600,000

AT PHILLIPS NEW YORK, the forthcoming New Now auction features dozens of works by new and rising talents, many of them African contemporary artists dedicated to figure painting, exploring representation and identity from an array of perspectives. Works by a selection of mid-career and well established African American artists are also offered in the sale, which typically focuses on in-demand emerging artists.

On Sept. 27, 250 lots are hitting the auction block at Phillips. Among the standouts are a group of paintings and works on paper by 20th century masters—notable African American artists who first came to prominence decades ago: Norman Lewis (1909-1979), Romare Bearden (1911-1988), Ed Clark (1926-2019), and Peter Bradley, the sole living artist in the group.

ED CLARK

Lewis, Clark, and Bradley are recognized for their work in abstraction. Clark’s fascinating canvases are defined by broad, dramatic strokes of color achieved by his use of a broom to push paint. He is also credited with being the first artist to work with shaped canvases. “Gray Force” (1972), an oval painting by Clark in muted tones of the sea and sand is one of the key lots in the auction.

Meanwhile, mega gallery Hauser & Wirth is surveying six decades of work by the artist. “Ed Clark: Big Sweep” is displayed on two floors. Born in New Orleans and raised in Chicago, Clark spent most of his career based between New York and Paris. He was living in Detroit when he joined Hauser & Wirth in 2019, a crowning achievement. Three months later he died.

Lot 49: ROMARE BEARDEN, “Green,” 1971 (collage on board, 9 1/4 x 12 inches / 23.5 x 30.5 cm). | Estimate $60,000-$80,000

ROMARE BEARDEN

Bearden was highly regarded for his complex collage works depicting scenes of African American life. Inspired by life and literature, Bearden’s Odysseus Series, a suite of 20 works, was a reinterpretation of Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey. At auction is “Green” (1971), a small-scale collage depicting a female figure in a mythical or edenic scene, a natural environment cast aglow by the sun, teeming with vegetation and wildlife.

Born in Charlotte, N.C., Bearden spent his career in New York. Respected among his peers, Bearden co-founded 306 group in 1934, gathering artists and writers. In 1963, he brought together fellow visual artists to form Spiral, a collective of influential African American artists. Cinque Gallery was established in 1969, providing a space for African Artists to exhibit and sell their work. The gallery operated for three decades, before shuttering in 2004, outlasting two of its three founders (Bearden, Lewis, and Ernest Crichlow, who died in 2005).

Lot 25: NORMAN LEWIS, “Blue Cloud,” 1964 (oil on paper, 24 x 18 3/4 inches / 61 x 47.6 cm). | Estimate $20,000-$30,000

NORMAN LEWIS

Moody and dramatic, Lewis’s abstract paintings are full of movement with organic forms evoking clouds and gradations of oil pigment channeling watercolors. Three works on paper by Lewis, including “Untitled (Red Nude)” (1962) and “Blue Cloud” (1964) are offered in the auction.

The sole Black member of the New York School of Abstract Expressionism, Lewis was active in the mid-19th century alongside Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko. Despite being at the center of the intellectual movement, he was not afforded the same opportunities as his white peers in his lifetime. “Procession: The Art of Norman Lewis,” the first major museum survey of the artist, was organized by curator Ruth Fine in 2015, 36 years after his death.

Two New York gallery exhibitions are currently showcasing Lewis’s work. “Norman Lewis & Richard Hunt” (Sept. 7-Nov. 18, 2023) at Bill Hodges Gallery, a Black-owned gallery, explores “the connected legacy of two distinguished abstractionists.” At Michael Rosenfeld Galley, “Norman Lewis: Give Me Wings To Fly” (Sept. 7-Nov. 4, 2023) features 60 works on paper produced between 1935 and 1978.

Born in Harlem, Lewis lived and worked in New York. He was a co-founder with Bearden of Spiral, 306 Group, and Cinque Gallery.

Lot 22: PETER BRADLEY, “Cassini’s Division #3,” 1981 (acrylic on canvas, 72 3/4 x 40 1/2 inches / 184.8 x 102.9 cm). | Estimate $150,000-$200,000

PETER BRADLEY

A painter and sculptor, Bradley may be best known as an art dealer and curator of The DeLuxe Show. Funded by John and Dominique de Menil (philanthropists and founders of the Menil Collection), the landmark exhibition was staged in a vacant movie theater called the De Luxe, located in Houston’s Fifth Ward, a once thriving Black business district.

On view for six weeks in the summer of 1971, the presentation was considered the first racially integrated exhibition in the nation, standing in stark contrast to nearly all white shows that on rare occasions included one or two Black artists.

If there is an artist in the group who might be considered “new” and “now,” it is Bradley, 83. Over the past few years, his work and his story have garnered heightened attention with exhibitions at Karma gallery in New York, where he is represented, and a profile in the New York Times.

Featured in the auction, his abstract painting “Cassini’s Division #3” (1981) marries a brown ground with amorphous bursts of muted color. The title of the painting invokes the Cassini Division, a reference to the largest gaps in Saturn’s ring system.

Born in Western Pennsylvania, Bradley made a name for himself half a century ago in New York City. Now he is based in Saugerties, a Hudson Valley town 100 miles north of Manhattan. He continues to practice, dousing his canvases with water from a garden hose before pouring on paint from buckets, fast and with abandon. The unique method creates pools of color that read as reverberations of sound from an artist who works with jazz music playing in his studio.

“I have to have music, otherwise I can’t paint,” Bradley said in the trailer for the documentary, “With Peter Bradley.” “Every sound has a color.” CT

FIND MORE about the documentary “With Peter Bradley,” which is currently on the film festival circuit

READ MORE In 2017, Steve Cannon, Quincy Troupe, and Cannon Hersey conducted an oral history interview with Peter Bradley for BOMB magazine

READ MORE about The DeLuxe Show on Culture Type

Lot 24: NORMAN LEWIS, “Untitled (Red Nude),” 1962 (oil on paper, 40 1/4 x 26 1/2 inches / 102.2 x 67.3 cm). | Estimate $30,000-$50,000

Lot 26: NORMAN LEWIS, Untitled, 1952 (ink and watercolor on paper, 19 x 23 3/4 inches / 48.3 x 60.3 cm). | Estimate $20,000-$30,000

BOOKSHELF
“Ed Clark: Big Sweep” at Hauser & Wirth is accompanied by a new volume published by the gallery. “Procession: The Art of Norman Lewis” documents the artist’s first major museum retrospective. Published in January, “Romare Bearden: Patchwork Quilt (One on One)” explores a single work by Romare Bearden, a 1970 collage. “An American Odyssey: The Life and Work of Romare Bearden” is a biography of the artist by Mary Schmidt Campbell. Also consider “The Romare Bearden Reader,” edited by Robert G. O’Mealley. Two new volumes published by Karma gallery consider the work of Peter Bradley: “Peter Bradley” and “Peter Bradley: Ruling Light.”

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