Sol LeWitt (1928-2007) is regarded as a founder of both Minimal and Conceptual art. His prolific two and three-dimensional oeuvre includes wall drawings (over 1200 of which have been executed), hundreds of works on paper, and structures in the form of towers, pyramids, geometric forms, and progressions. He’s also known for his postcard correspondence with famous contemporaries such as Eva Hesse and On Kawara.
For his Emblemata series of monotypes from 2000, LeWitt experimented with yet another medium: the book. Maurizio Londei of the Italian imprint Edizioni Essegi challenged LeWitt and other artistic titans, such as Richard Long and Pier Paolo Calzolari, to “transpose their emblematic essence” into print portfolios. The idea was for the artist to create an “ideal volume” that could serve as a direct conduit between artist and viewer, passing vital knowledge between them. LeWitt responded to this challenge with a series of 15 monotypes bearing his idiosyncratic two-toned palette and iconic, exuberant squiggle forms. The series doesn’t incorporate words nor is it bound, but it’s nonetheless successful as a late-career “text” bearing all the wisdom of LeWitt’s long and illustrious career. Scroll down to view prints from the series, and click here to browse all of the images. The Emblemata series is exclusively available as a complete set.
Sol LeWitt Emblemata
monotype, 11.25 x 22.37 in
“Ideas hang around images like shadows,” said Sam Francis (1923-1994). “The space at the center of these paintings is reserved for you.” The quote seems particularly apt when it comes to the abstract expressionist’s aquatint “The Five Continents in Wintertime.” Francis employs his idiosyncratic drips and splatters, but pulls back his typically vibrant palette to reflect the purple, blue and brown tones of bare branches set against winter skies. Between these cool winter “shadows,” a field of snowy white paper shows through.
Francis was born in San Mateo, California. He was initially influenced by the work of abstract expressionists such as Mark Rothko, Arshile Gorky and Clyfford Still. While living in Paris in the 1950’s, he became associated with Tachisme. Tachisme was a reaction to cubism and is characterized by spontaneous brushwork, drips and blobs of paint straight from the tube, and sometimes scribbling reminiscent of calligraphy. Francis spent his time in Paris executing entirely monochromatic works, but his mature pieces are generally large oil paintings with splashed or splattered areas of bright contrasting color. Areas of white canvas are often left to show through, and in later works, paint is sometimes confined to the edges of the canvas. Scroll down to view “The Five Continents in Wintertime” and other works by Sam Francis.
You might say that Pop artist Robert Indiana (b. 1928) lived the American Dream. Throughout the artist’s early childhood in Indiana, his family lived in poverty. They moved 21 times before Indiana turned 17, and his mother worked as a waitress in greasy spoon diners to make ends meet. Flash forward to the late 1950’s, and Indiana was a 20-something living in New York City and cavorting with the likes of Andy Warhol and Wynn Chamberlain. His hard-edged oil compositions bearing bright colors, provocative phrases and culturally significant numbers had caught the eye of the contemporary art world. In 1965, Indiana designed a Christmas card for MoMA featuring scarlet, stacked letters that spelled out “LOVE.” It would become his most iconic image, landing on a USPS postage stamp in 1973.
A few years before he created the LOVE image, Indiana looked back on his path to success with the first painting in his American Dream series. The same composition appears in Indiana’s 1997 serigraph Tilt from The American Dream, which is new to the Zane Bennett Contemporary collection. In the image, highly personal symbolism mingles with universal markers of Americanism.
The circles and stars that appear throughout the piece riff on advertising aesthetics of the period. In the black and yellow circle at top left, the numbers reference highways he roamed as a young man (including Route 66). The phrases “TAKE ALL” and “THE AMERICAN DREAM” represent an industrious but viciously competitive national ethos. In the bottom left circle, the word “TILT” evokes the pinball machines that Indiana encountered in the diners where his mother worked, and later in dive bars that he frequented. When paired with the other words in the tableau, “TILT” throws the egalitarian premise of The American Dream into question. This was the first of nine images in the American Dream series, created between 1961 and 2001. Tilt from the American Dream represents of Indiana’s epic, career-spanning exploration of the promises and pitfalls of American idealism.
Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) is having a moment—though you could argue that the postmodern provocateur has been en mode since the midcentury. In any case, the Museum of Modern Art’s blockbuster survey show Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends recently closed in New York, and SFMOMA’s manifestation of the exhibition opens in late November. The new show is titled Robert Rauschenberg: Erasing the Rules, a reference to the artist’s legendary erasure of a Willem De Kooning drawing in the name of art. It was a seminal moment in his early career, but hardly characteristic of the work he would produce in the following decades.
Rauschenberg was a master of addition rather than subtraction, fearlessly layering a vast arsenal of bizarre materials to create sculptural paintings, painted sculptures and three-dimensional drawings that he referred to as “Combines.” Cock Sure, a mixed-media print that he produced with Pace in the 1990’s, represents a late chapter of his persistent experimentation. “Cock Sure is an extension of his curiosity, applying paint directly onto the glass surface, increasing the depth of the work so that it became three-dimensional,” wrote Art Daily. “The work is characteristically by Rauschenberg as seen through the inclusion of everyday images: an open sign, chickens, a windmill, and a dog resting by a brick wall.” Scroll down to view more works by Rauschenberg in the Zane Bennett Contemporary collection.
Robert Rauschenberg Arcanum VIII
22.5 x 15.5 in
Robert Rauschenberg Arcanum V
color silkscreen with hand-coloring and collage on paper
22.5 x 15.5 in
Despite being credited with a Pop sensibility, Ed Ruscha (b. 1937) defies categorization with his diverse output of photographic books and tongue-in-cheek photo-collages, paintings, and drawings. Ruscha’s work is inspired by the ironies and idiosyncrasies of life in Los Angeles, which he often conveys by placing glib words and colloquial phrases atop photographic images or fields of color. Known for painting and drawing with unusual materials such as gunpowder, blood, and Pepto Bismol, Ruscha draws attention to the deterioration of language and pervasive clichés in pop culture.
Ruscha’s lithographRelos Arenais new to the Zane Bennett Contemporary collection. The artist’s bold style and idiosyncratic splatter effects are on dynamic display in the piece, but it also possesses an elegance and subtlety that echoes its subject matter. Scroll down to view detail images of this work, and click here to inquire now.
Christo‘s early education in Soviet Socialist Realism, and his experience fleeing his home as a refugee of political revolution, informed his career’s numerous forays into real-world politics as a primary subject and source of his art making. His 35-year collaboration with the artist Jeanne-Claude, and the large-scale site-specific works they co-authored, stand out as his career’s greatest achievements.
Together, the duo made monumentally-scaled sculptures and installations that often utilized the technique of draping or wrapping large portions of existent landscapes, buildings, and industrial objects with specially engineered fabric. Christo and Jeanne-Claude made works that stand out as some of the most grandiose, ambitious, site-specific art works ever. While they often insisted that the aesthetic properties of their art constituted its primary value, reactions from audiences and critics worldwide have long recognized a broader commentary operating across their work—as exemplified by Christo’s serigraph and photo collage Wrapped Statues, The Glyptothek, Munich, created in the twilight of the Cold War.