Phillips de Pury & Company auctioneers have revealed highlights from its Latin America Contemporary Art auction “Our 20 November 2012 auction is a focused sale containing many of the most influential voices in Latin American contemporary art, spanning the last 60 years. The curatorial approach taken in the development of this sale showcases the depth of sophistication of the region’s artistic production, featuring historically significant artists who have been traditionally underrepresented in the auction market.”
Henry Allsopp, Worldwide Director, Latin America JOAQUÍN TORRES GARCÍA, Río Negro (Arte Constructivo), 1943, $350,000 – 550,000. Joaquín Torres García’s sophisticated approach to composition often manifested itself as playful experimentation, testing the particularities of form on divergent planes and constructions.
Torres García’s belief in art as a collaborative relationship between the physical medium and its surroundings originated when he was a child playing in his father’s carpentry workshop. Long hours spent assembling pieces of wood led to a distinct visual language that reflects his life-long admiration for everyday objects and materials, which in his hands would become illuminating examples of natural beauty and human creative potential. Rio Negro (Arte Constructivo), 1943 is emblematic of the principles that drove Torres García’s most groundbreaking aesthetic innovations. What may at first seem like a formalist composition of color blocks and geometric forms soon transforms into a figurative landscape, complete with a railroad locomotive and human figures. Each shape maintains its individual physical presence, yet true to Torres García’s vision, the composition is dominated by a sense of dynamic solidity and cohesion. He employed the modernist grid to arrange his elements into a harmonious structure, where his viewers can examine the multifaceted relationships between the parts and the whole. He wanted his art to be a model for society, and he became an educator in order to demonstrate art’s powerful constructive influence. Through works like Rio Negro (Arte Constructivo), Torres García laid the groundwork for the development of a new visual language in Latin America, one that embraced its heritage as it looked ahead to a new era of unprecedented transformations.
FRANCIS ALŸS, Untitled (Installation of two works, in collaboration with Emilio Rivera), 1996, $300,000 – 500,000. An important aspect of Alÿs’ artistic practice revolves around the problems and experiences of urban spaces, and the ways in which human actions are influenced by their surroundings. With an approach that involves a dedicated observation of the social, cultural, and political circumstances of particular places, his body of work blurs the boundary between the world of art and the world of people. Through ingenious philosophical and aesthetic tools he conveys that these worlds are, in truth, one and the same. Untitled (Installation of two works, in collaboration with Emilio Rivera), 1996 has its roots in Alÿs’ Sign Painting Project, which he carried out between 1993 and 1997. Inspired by the ordinary street advertisements that could be seen everywhere in Mexico City, Alÿs hired commercial sign painters to work with him on the innovative artistic venture. For the project, Alÿs developed a total 74 pictorial motifs, which were divided into three different categories: The Liar, the Copy of the Liar; The White Series; and Cityscapes. The present lot is part of the Cityscapes group which consists of panoramic views of buildings, along with an assortment of billboards, planks, and other symbols of contemporary urbanisation. The red dress in Untitled (Installation of two works, in collaboration with Emilio Rivera), conveyed in Alÿs’ initial painting through the use of collage, reminds us that in spite of the angular uniformity and concrete visual order, this setting is also a profoundly human one, built and inhabited by people. Unique to this specific iteration of the Sign Painting Project, the dress adds an element of lyrical beauty to its rigid surroundings, and it instills in the work a distinctly poetic quality often found at the intersection of art and life.
JESÚS RAFAEL SOTO, Orinoco, 1983, $300,000 – 500,000. Among the most celebrated artists of the 20th century, Jesús Rafael Soto is known for his commanding use of light, space, and materiality. In his hands, wood, metal, and paint become active agents that awaken the viewer’s physical and mental energies. Soto dedicated his life to the creation of another reality and he constantly searched for a new way to decipher the physical universe through art. Orinoco, 1983 is a direct result of these ideas, and the work illustrates Soto’s primary concerns throughout his life. The diagonal planes jut confidently into our space, playing with the varying forces of light and shadow. The hanging aluminum rods, juxtaposed against the visually dynamic background, directly interact with the most basic elements of our reality, testing the boundaries of perception and spatial relationships through subtle aesthetic and physical vibrations. True to its maker’s intentions, the work can be experienced in a variety of different ways.
ROBERTO MATTA, The Boxers, 1955, $280,000 – 350,000. For decades Roberto Matta has been considered a defining presence in Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism, two of the most significant movements in modern Western art. Born and raised in Chile, Matta journeyed to Paris as a young man, where he worked as an apprentice for modernist architect Le Corbusier. Inspired by the studio’s visionary projects, Matta developed a talent for displaying otherworldly beauty through physical structures. The present lot, created in the immediate Post-War period, displays Matta’s manifold influences and experimental journeys. The color gradations and bursts of illuminating brushwork on the background suggest an undefined, surrealist setting. In the foreground we are confronted with a violent boxing match consisting of a myriad of distended limbs and distorted figures. Matta’s theme evidences his awareness of current affairs and social practices—in the aftermath of World War II, boxing became one of the most popular sports in the world, and it was the first ever televised sport in some Latin American countries. With streaks of white, black, and red paint Matta expertly renders the visceral energy of the punches, as the boxing gloves come into forceful contact with the embattled subjects. Using a visual vocabulary that corresponded to his socio-cultural context, Matta demonstrates that conflict presents itself to the world in innumerable ways, and its causes and circumstances are rarely as clear as its effects.
Other works include: OS GÊMEOS, Untitled, 2008-2010, estimate $250,000 – 450,000; WIFREDO LAM, Personnage, 1970, estimate $250,000 – 350,000; ANTONIO DIAS, Free Continent: Natural Richnesses, 1968-1969, estimate $250,000 – 350,000; HÉLIO OITICICA, Metaesquema 167, 1958 estimate $200,000 – 300,000; LYGIA PAPE, O olho do guará (No. 13), 1984, estimate $150,000 – 250,000 and Four elements from the Night and Day Book, 1963/1976, estimate $100,000 – 150,000; SERGIO CAMARGO, Untitled (No. 461), 1970, estimate $150,000 – 250,000; LUIZ SACILOTTO, Concreta 7964, 1979, estimate $120,000 – 180,000; HÉRCULES BARSOTTI, Urgimento Ortogonal I, 1971, estimate $120,000 – 180,000; MIRA SCHENDEL, Notebook, 1971, estimate, $80,000 – 120,000; and WALTÉRCIO CALDAS, Azul de Superfície, 2005, estimate $80,000 – 120,000.
Photo: Francis Alys, Untitled (Installation of two works, in collaboration with Emilio Rivera), 1996i) collage and oil on canvas, laid on board; ii) airbrush on metal sheeti) 6 1/8 x 8 1/8 in. (15.6 x 20.6 cm); ii) 36 x 51 1/4 in. (91.4 x 130.2 cm) i) Signed and dated “F. Alÿs 1996” on the reverse. ii) Signed and dated “Emilio Rivera F. Alÿs ©1996” on the reverse. Estimate: $300,000 – 500,000.