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Media
Withdrawn
Media
Withdrawn

Media

US
NY, US
US

About the item

Robert Ryman’s distinctive luminous white pigment dances across the cool aluminum face of Media, 1981, enacting an unabashed celebration of the union between medium and support. Belying the adamantly non-expressionist bent of Ryman’s artistic philosophy, the present work pulsates with a tangible aesthetic vitality and indefatigable dynamism, ensconcing us within its ethereal elegance and eliciting a powerfully personal visceral response. Initially transmitting a breathtaking stillness, the closer we get and the longer we observe Ryman’s textured whirlwind of impastoed oil the more we succumb to the tempest of disciplined strokes that radiate with ineffable brilliance against the aluminum ground of Media.  A self-declared realist, Ryman has constructed a unique visual lexicon inspired by his lifelong study and exploration of the most elemental painting materials, the ‘real’ tools of the artist. In an act of momentous artistic bravura, he co-opts and makes his own every device associated with abstraction and representation – composition, color, complexity, surface, light, texture, and line – and puts them to work in the service of a revolutionary aesthetic end. Media, a truly captivating exemplar of Ryman’s prodigious corpus of mesmerizing paintings, typifies the strongest aspects of the artist’s lifelong dissertation on the possibilities of abstract painting in Contemporary Art. Within the scope of an oeuvre characterized by a number of consistent themes and principles, Ryman pursued two above all with unerring continuity and dogged determination: his use of white and the deliberately non-compositional device of the square. The most prevalent elements of his work, they are the foundations of his thorough examination of the act of painting in all of its physical and theoretical complexity. Unlike other premier abstractionists of his generation, and the New York School of Abstract Expressionists that preceded him, Ryman never explored figuration in his art whilst in pursuit of his distinctive style; instead, since the very incipit of his critically acclaimed career, his sole concern has been non-illusionist works that focus on the essential behaviors of his material elements. With Media, Ryman cements his critical place within the pivotal art historical lineage established by pioneering abstractionists such as Kazimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian in the early Twentieth Century, who jettisoned all allusion to the figure in favor of an aesthetic inspired entirely by the power of unadorned geometric shapes.\nRyman first came to New York to be a musician and his comments on jazz are illuminating when considering the philosophical groundwork of his practice. Ryman “was never interested in free jazz. I was interested in jazz with a structure.” In similar fashion, Ryman’s painterly aesthetic is based on a clearly defined range of variables, within which he is capable of amazing permutation and inventiveness. Like a jazz score comprised of a limited number of notes played to slightly different effect during each subsequent performance, Ryman’s ascetic stylistic parameters challenge him to create subtle riffs on each composition. Media, as one of three near-identical works created in 1981, is paradigmatic of this concept. All executed on the same scale, and with the same materials, these three paintings – the present work; Sector, sold at Sotheby’s New York in 2007; and Post, from a San Francisco Private Collection – are individualized only by Ryman’s subtle treatment of his pigment at the extreme upper and lower edges. This paradox of freedom within structure is beautifully evident in Ryman’s energetic manipulation of white pigment within the compositional confines of the square, splendidly demonstrated in the present work.\nThe square, with its universal symmetry, is inherently 'composed,' obviating the need to assign pictorial order or balance. For Ryman, "if you have an equal-sided space and you're going to put paint on it..., then [the square] seems like the most perfect space. I don't have to get involved with spatial composition, as with rectangles and circles." (the artist in conversation with Phyllis Tuchman, Artforum, May 1971, pp. 44-65) In a comparable ode to pure methodology, the artist’s proclivity for a predominantly white palette arose from its suitability in revealing the inherent properties of paint – color, texture, density, light, and reflectivity – and not out of any attempt at symbolism. Since its formal adoption into his practice in the mid-1950s, Ryman afforded the color white a whole spectrum of tonal effects and degrees of gloss, encouraging nuances ranging from cool to warm, transparent to impenetrable. The indelibly crisp white pigment of Media is afforded an enchanting nuance in passages of thinner application where the light metal underlayer is brought to the fore. Indeed, the artist himself has emphasized the crucial role of the support in his paintings as it works in harmony with his chosen medium: "Always, the surface is used. The gray of the steel comes through...the linen comes through...all of those things are considered. It's really not monochrome painting at all.'' (Ibid., p. 44)\nOften, the exposure of the support and the absence of paint on one or more edge as in Media, serve to unify the whole, by emphasizing its construction. At the edges of his abstract design, Ryman’s paint is applied in an extremely thin, diaphanous way so that it appears to merge naturally with the aluminum, resulting in a consummate realization of his fundamental artistic philosophy of conferring an equal level of importance upon each element that combines to create his final work. This equal emphasis indicates his predilection for identifying his paintings as objects of dimensionality and not simply as two-dimensional frontal picture planes. As an object, the wall also becomes the ground or support for the painting and its white expansiveness is integral to the viewer’s experience of the painting as a whole. In his own words, Ryman elaborated on the theory of relation that defines his laudable corpus: “I’m trying to make very clear that the painting exists only on the wall, and once it’s down from the wall, the fasteners are lost and so the composition is lost and the painting is not alive. You know, it doesn’t exist until it’s in a situation, it’s in a room on a wall.” (the artist interviewed by Barbaralee Diamonstein in 1977, published in Inside New York’s Art World, 1979) Always concerned with surface, color, scale and their relationship to architecture, Ryman’s paintings exist as ultimate artistic objects, which are only fully realized once exhibited. Media, exemplary of Robert Ryman’s distinguished, iconic, and inherently artistic technique, provides a level of unparalleled engagement for its viewer who, in the course of absorbing its physical presence, becomes part of the work itself. Ryman’s art is all-encompassing and Media is fully consuming in its intoxicating blend of simplified beauty, intricate painterly detail and theoretical brilliance.\nSigned, titled and dated 81 on the reverse
US
NY, US
US

medium

Oil on aluminum-polyethylene panel with two aluminum bands and four round painted bolts

creator

Robert Ryman

condition

Please contact the Contemporary Art department at 212-606-7254 for the condition report prepared by Terrence Mahon. This work is not framed. 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. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.

dimensions

60 x 60 in. 152.4 x 152.4 cm.

exhibition

Chicago, Young Hoffman Gallery, Robert Ryman: Paintings, March - April 1982 Kassel, Museum Fridericianum, Documenta 7, June - September 1982, vol. II, p. 401 (checklist) Chicago, The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, The Meditative Surface, April - May 1984, cat. no. 3, p. 11, illustrated Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Selections from the William J. Hokin Collection, April - June 1985, p. 111, illustrated Chicago, Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Primary Structures, September - October 1987 New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Abstraction in the Twentieth Century: Total Risk, Freedom, Discipline, February - May 1996, cat. no. 193, p. 197, illustrated in color Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, Contemporary Collecting: The Judith Neisser Collection: Minimal and Postminimal Innovation, February - May 2011, p. 127, illustrated in color and p. 12 (text)

literature

"Documenta 7: ein Rundgang," Kunstforum International, nos. 53-54, September - October 1982, pp. 94-95, illustrated in color (in installation at Documenta 7) Alan Artner, "The Paintings of Robert Ryman Have Broken New Ground," Chicago Tribune, May 24, 1985, sec. 7, p. 47 Exh. Cat., London, Tate Gallery (and travelling), Robert Ryman, 1993, p. 221 (text) (London and New York) and pp. 242-243 (text) (Madrid)

provenance

Young Hoffman Gallery, Chicago (acquired from the artist in 1983) William J. Hokin, Chicago Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Dittmer, Chicago Anthony Grant Inc., New York Acquired by the present owner from the above in 2002

signedDate

Signed, titled and dated 81 on the reverse

consignmentDesignation

Property of a Prominent Midwest Collector

creator_nationality_dates

B. 1930





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