Peter’s Auction Pick of the Day: Sheila Hicks

May 19, 2016

One of the great pleasures of our business here at Los Angeles Modern Auctions is that, when someone consigns a work of art to an auction, we get to live with it for a little while. Getting to spend time with this 1975 fiber construction by Sheila Hicks, Lot 200 in LAMA’s May 22, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction, has been a continual source of enjoyment since it was mounted on the wall of our showroom. Few pieces in my experience have had such a captivating presence.

Lot 200, Sheila Hicks, Untitled, 1975
Lot 200, Sheila Hicks, Untitled (1975)
May 22, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

Part of that is due to its size. Composed of four panels, when laid out horizontally it measures some twenty-one feet in length. It commands attention, just as the architects who commissioned such works from Hicks anticipated. Those architects also appreciated the contrast of a Hicks work against the hard, austere surfaces of a modernist interior. I think about her work, too, in juxtaposition to the work of other artists. At LAMA, we often see pieces by members of the Light & Space movement–artists like Peter Alexander and DeWain Valentine, who create resin sculptures meant to capture the atmospheric experience of Southern California. There’s a wonderful dialogue between their work and that of Hicks. The former is cool, polished, scientific. Hers, by contrast, is warm, handmade, and intimate. Theirs concerns atmosphere; Hicks’s is about earth.

Lot 200, Sheila Hicks, Untitled, 1975
Lot 200, Sheila Hicks, Untitled (1975)
May 22, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

But the thing that I think makes the work of Sheila Hicks so compelling is its honesty; its realness. We live in cynical times, but there’s nothing arch or affected about Hicks’ work. There is an interesting moment in a 2004 conversation between Hicks and the writer Monique Lévi-Strauss, recorded for the Smithsonian Institute’s Archives of American Art, in which Lévi-Strauss notes that “There is harmony and unity in all your creations”–presumably a chief aspiration of many artists. Yet, Hicks responds, “The test will be if I manage to transmit joy and creating, and willingness to dig the trenches to be able to realize your dreams. To me that’s probably the essential thing.”

Few artists are ever so forthcoming about their ambitions for their work. Sheila Hicks states it plainly: she wants hers to inspire.

Lot Information:

Lot 200
Sheila Hicks
Cotton and applied wrapped cordage
Retains the emblem of Galerie Alice Pauli
LAMA would like to thank Atelier Sheila Hicks and Sikkema Jenkins & Co. for their assistance in cataloguing this work
Approximately 44″ x 254″
This work was commissioned by Winston-Salem Savings and Loan Building in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
The work was woven by the artist in Kerala, South India and finished in her Paris, France atelier.

Provenance: Winston-Salem Savings and Loan Building, Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Private Collection, North Carolina (acquired
directly from the above)

Estimate: $40,000–$60,000
May 22, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

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