The December 14 Post War and Contemporary Art auction at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers has a particularly international focus. Continue reading to explore the sale’s top two lots by Liu Kuo-sung and Rufino Tamayo.
Highlights in Post War and Contemporary Art
Liu Kuo-sung is frequently heralded as both a groundbreaker and consequently one of the most significant modern Chinese painters, leading to him being acknowledged as the father of Modernist Chinese ink painting. Originally trained in the centuries old custom of ink painting, Kuo-sung briefly experimented with abstract oil painting in the early 60s, before returning to the traditional medium with a revolutionary approach. Recognizing the limited advancements made over the course of hundreds of years of ink and brush, Kuo-sung sought to innovate radically the approach and bring ink painting to the 20th century and beyond by rejecting convention, adopting new techniques of his own invention and utilizing paper of his own design.
The Universe is in My Heart, 2003, from the artist’s Space Series, employs both his personally developed Shuitou or water rubbing technique and Zimo or ink steeping technique and demonstrates the artist’s virtuosity in composition, craftsmanship and expansive scale. Depicting a cycle of seven red moon phases arcing against an atmospherically abstracted planetary surface the work imbues tranquility as science, spirituality and invention harmonize. A teacher as well as a maker, Kuo-sung demonstrates with this spacescape, vast in scope and concept, the infinite possibilities of ink painting when approached with inspired vision.
Long revered for his signature stylized abstraction of the human form, Rufino Tamayo’s Tres Figuras, 1969, confirms this acclaim masterfully. Compositionally this work combines Tamayo’s Modernist leaning painting approach with notions of ancestral archetypal themes. The painting depicts three elongated figures, simultaneously futuristic and ancient, floating on an atmospheric brick red ground and softly surrounded by a pinkish lavender halo of hues; perhaps as a nod to Colorfield painting and certainly intended to provide a sense of mystery. The subjects stand full frontal, directly engaging the viewers gaze creating an imperative for conversation between character and audience on topics of humanity and how human, human can be. As well, in typical Tamayo fashion, the central placement of the figures ultimately transcends a visual hierarchy requiring the work to be read as a whole through balance and symmetry.
Painted at the height of both the space race and the cold war, the exaggerated structure of the trio reference period science fiction and reality harkening to imagery of robots, astronauts, rocket ships or missiles. Contrasting these fantastical features with materials and process, Tamayo’s heavy paint application, use of sand for texture, limited palate and at times muted earth tones speak to something more primitive, reminiscent in technique of sophisticated cave painting. Considering the predominance of Catholicism in Tamayo’s native Mexico, the religious symbolism of the three cannot be escaped as parallels to the Holy Trinity, or the Three Kings of the Nativity are inherently evoked. Tamayo always one to operate in dualities, as evidenced by his idea that constraining the color choices in a given painting actually expanded the potential for complex organization within said work. In this instance, perceived conceptual opposition between the advanced imagined and the terrestrially historic actually synthesize in Tres Figuras making this work executed in 1969 perpetually in the now.