Lot 32
  • 32

Wade Guyton

1,300,000 - 1,800,000 GBP
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  • Wade Guyton
  • Untitled
  • Epson UltraChrome inkjet on canvas
  • 150 by 90cm.; 59 by 35 3/8 in.
  • Executed in 2005.


Friedrich Petzel Gallery, New York

Private Collection, New York

Acquired from the above by the present owner


Hamburg, Kunstverein, Wade Guyton: Colour, Power and Style, 2005-06, p. 50, illustrated in colour 


Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is deeper and richer and it fails to fully convey the flames underneath the black ink. Condition: This work is in very good condition. Close inspection reveals some extremely light and superficial handling marks to the upper vertical edges which are in-keeping with the artist's production methods at this time. No restoration is apparent when examined under ultra-violet light.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

“Fire is always captivating. I thought of it as romantic, but camp. Destructive, but also generative. And of course hot. There’s a great interaction between the image and the material in the fire paintings, which I didn’t predict, in the way the ink drips and runs.”

Wade Guyton quoted in: Exh. Cat., New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Wade Guyton OS, 2012, p. 204. 

Created in 2005, the present work belongs to Wade Guyton's iconic corpus of ink-jet painted canvases, the Flaming Us. The inherent climactic movement of a vividly smouldering flame scanned and printed onto canvas, an image taken from the dust-jacket of Stephen King’s 1980 novel Firestarter, builds to a crescendo of movement that is boldly balanced by the artist’s signature letter U stamped in garish yellow atop of the image. The dynamism that Guyton achieves through this aesthetically audacious juxtaposition of baroque flame and minimalist alphabet is further emphasised by the black ink that, counterintuitively, drips upwards onto the letter to echo the movement of the flames. These uncontrollable elements of chance – almost alchemical interactions with the printer – are typical of Guyton’s working process. Operating in the margin between digital and manual, pictorial and literal, the artist’s post-Duchampian appropriation and incorporation of quotidian technology, such as printers and scanners, into the realm of painting, allowed Guyton to formulate an entirely novel visual and conceptual dialogue. For his celebrated series of Flaming U’s, Guyton chose a pictorial motif that contrasted with his previous, purely minimalist and austere repertoire of stripes and letters. This new semiotic complexity explored the idiosyncratic coexistence of all-over abstraction and cut-and-paste collage, and further allowed him to develop a discourse whereby visual material is appropriated and transferred to a new code of imagery.

The industrial printer Guyton used to create this series, an Epson Stylus Pro 11880, was not intended to handle the thickness of the linen and was thus literally choked with the primed canvas during the execution of these works. The resulting compositions were thus entirely unpredictable. The back and forth dialogue of giving up control and attempting to regain it is inherent to Guyton’s working process, in which chance is integral to the creation of these mesmerisingly seductive yet theoretically complex works. Where artists from the Pictures Generation, such as Cindy Sherman, Louise Lawler, or Richard Prince, appropriated an image and collapsed its temporal and spatial dimensions by removing any authorial sources, Guyton deliberately renders visible the sources from which he works. The torn cover of the book is not obstructed but openly displayed at the top of the canvas whilst the presence of pixels is emphasised by the enlarged JPEG file Guyton has used. The white printer lines that evenly cut through the black surface recall Guyton’s preceding geometric stripe paintings and add a further compositional element to the complex dichotomy between digital perfection and mechanical error.

By pushing the technological limits of his working materials, Flaming U openly displays the traces of Guyton’s struggle to bring an image from the screen onto the canvas. Appropriating the computer as his palette and utilising the printer as his paintbrushes, Guyton has redefined the perception of painting in the Twenty-First Century; just as Pollock had previously done with his dripping technique, Warhol with his silkscreens, or Richter with the squeegee.