Peter’s Auction Picks of the Day: December 10th

December 9, 2011

Young(ish) Artists in LA

Today we look at a five great artists who have emerged from the
Southland in the last thirty years. Each possess some version of that
rebellious, post/anti-hippie alternative spirit that was sometimes too
jaded to fight the good fight against the dark days of the big
shoulder-padded, Gordon Gecko, “Dynasty” era.

Now residing in Venice, CA, Raymond Pettibon first made a name for
himself with the underground music scene of the 1980s. An entire
generation of punk kids know him for his Black Flag and Sonic Youth
album covers, among others. While Pettibon expanded to fine art
mid-decade, his punk spirit positively throbs with excitement in
Thinking of You (Lot 55) (with 46 added drawings).




The standard edition of his published tome raised eyebrows, among
other parts, by only depicting large–very large–silhouettes of male
members, accompanied by the artist’s usual provocative text. However,
the version up for auction on Sunday is a very special copy of this
hardest of hardbacks–a one of a kind work in and of its self.
Pettibon (impishly? generously? both?) not only signed and dedicated
the book but added substantial text and filled dozens of the empty
opposing pages with ink and watercolor drawings of soaring, jaunty,
and yes, optimistic genitalia. Humorous as they all are, one senses a
master’s hand furiously at work. Insert a large, firm bid and this
big boy could be yours.

Jonas Wood’s Ewing’s Card (Lot 199) from the artist’s athletic trading
card portraits combines a LA denizen’s natural tendency to worship
the physical and the driven with a child-of-the-80s’ ironic distance.
In the words of art critic Roberta Smith, Woods’ is a “highly personal
but impersonally observed reality.” Ewing’s form is at once idealized
and disjointed–employing a ball player who is an icon for an entire
generation just now exiting its youth. Sigh.

Tom Sachs, who perfected his fabricating skills during an internship
with Frank Gehry in Los Angeles, has a lifelong obsession with that
ultimate Gen X icon of hipster disdain: Hello Kitty (Lot 200).
Meditating on his–and our–fetishization of luxury goods, Sachs takes
a Gucci hat box lid and in its interior paints a striking, zen-like
portrait of his beloved feline’s disembodied head. Sachs was
attracted to, as he puts it, the cartoon’s “almost Buddhist sense of
nothingness,” an apt metaphor for what Mike Nichols called, “the Los
Angelization of America.”

Emerging from the MFA program for the California Institute of the Arts
outside Los Angeles and now located in Palm Springs, Jim Isermann is
represented by the Untitled (Lot 92). This acrylic painting of one
highly-stylized flower in bloom is unguardedly lovely, with soothing,
“pretty” pinks and oranges in a peaceful array over a life-giving
sunny yellow orb. But as with most of Isermann’s oeuvre, this beauty
is double-edged. His works are always sincere in their optimism and
willingness to please, in their longing vision for a better day soon
to come yet… somehow–alchemically– a sadness creeps in. Isermann
verges on lamenting future Utopias past, paradises lost before they
were ever found. Always there is the fear that the current hope is
bound to disappoint.

This duality of reverence and remorse finds one of its most poignant
iterations in Tim Hawkinson’s Untitled (Double Flags) (Lot 201). As
we mentioned in the catalogue, Hawkinson uses distinctly inventive
methods with the skill of a special effects wizard to explore
existential themes of human consciousness, the passage of time, and
our relationship with the objects we create and consume. While Double
Flags can be seen as a nod to recent art history–an homage to Jasper
Johns’ own conflicted take on the American Flag–Hawkinson combines
visual audacity with technical mastery, allowing the intersecting Old
Glories to collide in a spectacular manner that mocks the worst of our
nation’s kitsch and faux-authenticity even as it transcends it. The
red stripes of one flag smash into the white stripes of the other and
where they meet they form the schmaltziest symbol of Americana, the
quaint, “unpretentious” checkered table-cloth. Hawkinson attacks how
the flag has been co-opted by some who have wrapped it in
sentimentality until it has become a divisive annointer of who is a
Good American and who is not. And yet… like Isermann, like
Johns… this epic in miniature seems to long for that which it
deconstructs, and seems willing to embody all that it questions. Even
those of us lost in the endless summer of LA still pine for
“realness”. Even for the Letterman-fed children of our most ironic
time, sincerity survives… hope survives.

Lot Information:

Lot 55
Raymond Pettibon
Thinking of You (with 46 added drawings)
Renaissance Society of the University of Chicago
Book with original ink and watercolor drawings
Special edition
Inscribed on inside of front cover
12.25″ x 9.25″ x 1.25″
Regular limited edition of catalogue for Pettibon’s exhibition at the Renaissance Society in 1998 was 2000. This special edition features original drawings, overdrawing, and messages from the artist.
Estimate $18,000 – 25,000 

Lot 199
Jonas Wood
Ewing’s Card
Gouache and pencil on Rives BFK paper
Signed and dated with title verso
Image: 27.75″ x 20.25″; Sheet: 30.25″ x 22.25″
Estimate $4,000 – 6,000 

Lot 200
Tom Sachs
Hello Kitty
circa 2000
Acrylic and pencil on gift box lid
16″ x 18.25″ x 1.75″
Estimate $8,000 – 12,000

Lot 92
Jim Isermann
Acrylic on wood board
Signed and dated verso
48″ x 48″ x 1.75″
Estimate $4,000 – 6,000

Lot 201
Tim Hawkinson
Untitled (Double Flags)
United States flags and gingham napkin on canvas
Signed and dated verso
22″ x 21″
Estimate $6,000 – 8,000

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