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Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Day Auction

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London

Günther Förg
1952 - 2013
UNTITLED
each: signed, dated 08 and numbered MO1 - MOIV respectively on the reverse
acrylic on lead on wood, in four parts
each: 57.2 by 37.2 cm. 22 3/8 by 14 5/8 in.
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We thank Mr. Michael Neff from the Estate of Günther Förg for the information he has kindly provided on this work.

Provenance

Greene Naftali Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Catalogue Note

Painted only five years before the artist's death, Untitled marks the experimental culmination of a series begun in the early 1980’s by Günther Förg – the Lead Paintings.  Consisting of four of the artist’s trademark wooden boards wrapped in unprimed lead and coated in unadulterated pigments, “it is a formal work which seems to eschew formalism and even undermine its purity” in the words of Paul Schimmel (White Cube, ‘Günther Förg Lead Paintings’, in:  Press Release, 3 June 2011, online). In this succinct line, Schimmel hits on the genius of Förg’s Lead Paintings: by combining the techniques of the Abstract Expressionists with formal framework of the early Modernists, Förg boldly straddles two opposing camps and in turn creates new critical space for the development of contemporary abstraction.

A late disciple of Clement Greenberg, Förg and his Lead Paintings mix the formal techniques of Barnett Newman, Brice Marden and Mark Rothko with references to the modernist grid and rationality of high modernist architecture. A master photographer, Förg has concurrently produced a body of work photographing iconic modernist and Bauhaus buildings, slowly their aesthetic has infiltrated into his painterly experiments. This emphasis on line, balance and a modular approach to the construction of a painting is exemplified in Untitled. Reworking the composition in bold building blocks of four raw colours, each painting presents itself as a construction, almost sculptural in quality.

A reinterpretation of the De Stijl grid championed by Mondrian, Untitled is though far from an essay in flat formalism.  Staring into the sections of colour field painting, one becomes absorbed in the complex interplay between pigment and the lead beneath it. Trapped inside the ridged grid are passages of expressionistic paint work that engage and enliven the eye. Key to this is Förg’s base material – lead. He says “I like very much the qualities of lead – the surface, the heaviness… I like to react on things; with the normal canvas you often have to kill the ground, give it something to react against. With the metals you already have something – its scratches, scrapes’ (Günther Förg in conversation with David Ryan, in: David Ryan, Talking Painting: Dialogue with Twelve Contemporary Abstract Painters, London 2002, p. 77). The surface of each board is enlivened by the texture of the metal’s natural oxidation, which is in turn heightened by gestural brushstrokes.  In this, Förg is both artist and alchemist.

 

Paint is rarely considered for its physical properties, or chemical makeup. It is disregarded as a complex compound drawn from earth. By uniting paint with lead, Förg reinforces in the mind of the view the metaphorical proximity both substances have to the earth. A challenge to the idea that the aesthetic positions of early modernism and abstract expressionism cannot be bridged, Untitled is a celebration of form, colour and shape, but perhaps more importantly, the inherent materiality of paint and its elemental construction.

Contemporary Art Day Auction

|
London