Neunterjanuarzweitausendunddrei is a mesmerising circular painting consisting of concentric rings that convey a transcendental melancholy and sense of alienation through its blurry, out-of-focus appearance. Titled after the date of its creation in German (9 January 2003), Rondinone evokes the conceptual approach to painting of On Kawara, whilst its captivating colour compositions recalls colour field painters such as Kenneth Noland. The circular shape pays homage to Jasper John’s Targets, even referenced in the series’ title, and the dazzling effect of changing contours and visual effects echoes Op Art pictures. Incorporating all of these influences, Rondinone’s TARGET paintings achieve a highly distinctive, singular expression through the use of brightly coloured spray paint that envelops his paintings in a smooth blur. The result is a constant change in spatial perception of hypnotising quality that deeply engages with the viewer’s perspective. The artist himself reflected on his painterly practice: “All the paintings are about space and time... You have a landscape and you walk in a space... The targets open up like a tunnel, like a horizon, and the stars are like in space” (Ugo Rondinone in conversation with Brienne Walsh, Modern Painters, October 2013, online). The hypnotic and meditative feelings invoked by the painting’s colours are strongly contradicted by the work’s flat and depthless surface, imposing a puzzling conceptual disparity that deeply resonates with Rondinone’s elusive artistic practice.
In contrast to the abstract aesthetics of his TARGET paintings, Rondinone’s hyperrealist, human-scale sculptures made from a mixture of wax and earth pigments reflect upon existentialist expressions of the human condition. Rondinone himself said that he chose dancers at the peak of their youth, bodies full of energy to accentuate the contradiction with their state of slumber. The contemplative pose of the sculpture evokes a fragile, inward-looking perspective that resonates with the work’s title, nude (xxx). Not only a signifier for nakedness, the title also hints towards the exposed nature of contemplation as a state of highest vulnerability, emphasised by the delicate material used for the cast. The natural essence of the material emphasises the duality of life and death of the very lifelike yet unreal apparitions with closed eyes and fragmented limbs. Similar to Rondinone’s paintings, nude (xxx) defies any definitive interpretation and is suffused with the artist’s idiosyncratic sense of openness and dichotomy.
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