Contemporary Art Online | New York

Contemporary Art Online | New York

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 9. Silver.

Pat Steir


Lot Closed

July 21, 04:09 PM GMT


35,000 - 45,000 USD

Lot Details


Pat Steir

b. 1940


oil on canvas

23 by 23 in. (58.4 by 58.4 cm.)

Executed in 1999.

13th Annual Watermill Center Summer Benefit Auction, 15 July 2006 (courtesy of the artist)

Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Executed in 1999, Pat Steir’s Silver hovers on the borderline between emptiness and fullness. The shining, silver paint has a technical appearance that almost suggests some piece of hardware. However, the drips of black and pastel-colored paint interrupt this flawless surface. Whereas the silver monochrome conceals the artist’s presence, the drips assert the materiality of paint. As they puncture the monochrome, the drips create a sense of depth within the canvas, which acquires an atmospheric quality, as if these drips were stars in a silvery sky.

Donatien Grau writes of Pat Steir, “she conceives art that is not placed into the world, but opens up onto a world.”[1] In this way, we might say that Silver opens up onto a cosmos of silver, a realm of moonlight. Even the drips, which speckle the silver background, emphasize the richness of this silver just as stars in the night sky intensify the depth of the surrounding darkness. In this world of color, Steir stages a drama between intentionality and chance, which is a relationship that has fascinated Steir throughout her career, most notably in her celebrated Waterfall paintings.

Steir acknowledges that she alone is powerless to force meaning upon the canvas; however, the drips – which epitomize a surrender to chance, to gravity – “allow nature to expose itself through the canvas.”[2] Steir hopes that paint itself can grant a revelation through chance. In this way, Silver is a beautiful, small-scale example that exemplifies Steir’s concerns with both color and chance that have defined her career and that begs a viewer to contemplate color as a revelatory phenomenon.

[1] Donatien Grau, “A Field of Tension” in Pat Steir: Paintings , Vito Schnabel Gallery, St. Moritz, 2019, p. 5.

[2] Ibid.