Gray is pleased to participate in the 2021 edition of Art Basel at Messe Basel, presenting in the fair’s Galleries and Unlimited sectors.
In the Galleries sector, Gray features works by artists from the gallery’s contemporary and Modern programs, including McArthur Binion, Jim Dine, Jean Dubuffet, Theaster Gates, Adolph Gottlieb, David Hockney, Alex Katz, Robert Motherwell, Louise Nevelson, Jaume Plensa, Richard Serra, Leon Polk Smith, and John Storrs.
For Art Basel Unlimited, Gray debuts the installation of David Hockney’s photographic drawing, Pictures at an Exhibition, 2018-2021, printed in life-size scale for the first time.
"I had a long romance, and still do, with house paint…. The house paint had power for me, and the color charts of house paints had power for me. Because the colors were without compromise and without subtlety. American colors were not so much about decoration."
-Jim Dine (i)
Jim Dine’s painting A Universal Color Chart, 1961 was created by the artist in a formative period following his pioneering contributions to the experimental Happenings performances in New York. In this moment around 1960, Dine’s recognition as a painter swiftly developed, making him a key figure in the Pop Art scene and well known for his recognizable motifs such as hardware, tools, robes, and hearts.
Dine specifically began using the implements of a painter—the palette and the color chart—in 1960 as a means of registering introspective interrogation through the objects and images around his studio. As curator and art historian Germano Celant writes in the Guggenheim’s exhibition catalogue Jim Dine: Walking Memory, “The first [color chart] work, A 1935 Palette, 1960... is a declaration of self-legitimation as an artist, which he conveys by equating the value of the palette with that of his own twenty-five-year existence.”(ii)
“In these tools—from the hammer to the paintbrush, the palette to the color chart… [Dine] brings into focus the conceptual as well as emotional labor of his otherness. It is a persistently autobiographical, and temporal, movement among objects.”
-Germano Celant (iii)
Celant continues, “In subsequent works, his palette of colors is presented not only as the traditional wooden artist's palette but also as a house painter's color chart, a coldly organized keyboard ready for his visual concert. The first of these, A Universal Color Chart, 1961, contains impasti and clots of material that underscore a physical and fleshly complexity.”(iv)
The physical space suggested by the hues of green beyond the color chart in the painting would continue to be a primary concern for Dine, and which he would expand upon in Long Island Landscape, 1963, as well as in his works exhibited in the landmark 1964 Venice Biennale. Held in the collection of the Whitney Museum, Long Island Landscape presents a lawn and washy sky punctuated by hardware painted with a rainbow spectrum of color. A Universal Color Chart stands as a pivotal painting within Dine’s oeuvre, one in which he decisively developed his treatment of the picture plane like a two-way mirror—with recognizable objects reflected outward in dialogue with an illusory space beyond.
"I frequently leave areas of raw, unprimed canvas unpainted... That 'negative' space has just as active a role as the 'positive' painted space. The negative spaces maintain shapes of their own and are not empty.”
-Helen Frankenthaler (v)
Renowned American artist Helen Frankenthaler painted Arriving in Africa in 1970 after traveling to Morocco. On the deep influence of this trip, Frankenthaler stated: "I was going to Morocco, and as an artist you think of the visits Matisse and Delacroix had made there. In art and decoration, I knew iconography was forbidden by religion. Linear or arabesque motifs were used to replace and rival imagery – on walls, reliefs, tiles, gates, railings – an ordered melange of patterns.”(vi) The trip inspired landmark innovation in her oeuvre, where the independent line reasserts itself in a manner rarely seen since those that control so much of Mountains and Sea, her breakthrough 1952 painting which was another important source of inspiration for her 1970 paintings.(vii)
Frankenthaler’s related 1971 painting Chairman of the Board presents a similarly vibrant palette and is held in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York. MoMA’s collection notes remark on the visual and spatial feel of the monumental painting: "A river of raw canvas cuts across the vast expanse of this... painting. 'I frequently leave areas of raw, unprimed canvas unpainted,' Frankenthaler has said. 'That 'negative' space has just as active a role as the 'positive' painted space. The negative spaces maintain shapes of their own and are not empty.' In this work, the artist experimented with different ways to produce line: the thin, spindly black lines ... are drawn, but she also used color to create line, as the edges of the... paint demonstrate."(viii)
The year Frankenthaler created Arriving in Africa also marked her critical rise as one of the most important artists of the twentieth century. In 1969, Eugene C. Goossen organized her first major retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, which traveled throughout the United States and Europe. Meanwhile, Henry Geldzahler included Frankenthaler as the only woman artist in his ground-breaking exhibition New York Painting and Sculpture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. From that moment on, she has been widely credited for expanding the possibilities of abstraction with her soak-stained technique, and influencing the transition from Abstract Expressionism to Color Field painting.
The work of American artist Theaster Gates is deeply engaged in material and cultural preservation, especially as it relates to historical and contemporary power dynamics. From reactivating archives, such as those of the magazines Jet and Ebony, to recovering and repurposing buildings on Chicago's South Side, Gates's expansive practice also includes work in ceramics, painting, sculpture, installation, music, and performance. Drawing from diverse sources and narratives, he produces work that invokes the preservation and thoughtful examination of oft-neglected or distorted Black cultural and social histories.
Gates’ Civil Tapestries series, begun in 2011, are "made from colourful strips of decommissioned fire hose tonally arranged and sewn together." Curator Mark Godfrey of the Tate Modern has commented: "Gates's materials [for the Civil Tapestries] are extremely politically charged... By invoking the history of the Civil Rights Movement, Gates wanted to pay tribute to those people who fought in the struggle at great personal and physical risk."(ix)
Works from this series are housed in various public collections, including the collection of the Tate Modern, London; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; and the Menil Collection, Houston, Texas.
Alex Katz has over the past six decades established himself as a preeminent painter of modern life, whose distinctive portraits and lyrical landscapes bear a flattened surface and consistent economy of line.
Although perhaps best known for his striking portraits, flowers and landscapes have also long played a significant role in Katz's practice. Since the summer of 1949 when he attended the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture, Katz has split most of his time between New York and Maine, with the latter locale inspiring the tightly cropped floral motifs and landscapes that are at the forefront of his work.
In depicting a dotting of wildflowers, shadows on a field of grass, or a sunset peeking through the woods, Katz employs his masterful handling of light, color, and space to capture the flora and landscapes just as they appear to him at specific moments in time. Combining aspects of both abstraction and representation, these paintings "make us see the world the way [Katz] sees it, clear and up close, with all but the most essential details pared away."(x)
American modernist sculptor John Storrs (1885-1956) is best known for his art-deco sculpture and belief that modern sculpture should be related to architecture. Auto Tower is one of a number of related works Storrs produced 1920-1922, including a 1920 pencil and ink study for the present work in the Chazen Museum of Art, Madison, Wisconsin; a 1922 painted plaster version of the present work in the collection of Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts; and two larger versions done around 1922 in cast and painted concrete in the collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
In 1986-87, the Whitney Museum of American Art organized a traveling exhibition of Storrs' work; curator and art historian Noel Frackman discussed Auto Tower (Industrial Forms) in the exhibition catalogue:
"That Storrs was moving specifically in the direction of architectonic sculpture is revealed in the bronze Auto Tower (Industrial Forms), the plaster model for which was probably exhibited in the Société Anonyme show. Storrs called this sculpture his 'auto tower,' but it is actually a triple pun. To a basic tower form, he added the sleek lines, wheels, and chassis of a touring car—apparent when the piece is turned horizontally. In addition, an ink drawing of the sculpture shows that Storrs also intended the work to be viewed as the profile of a figure or a totemic personage. Such inversions, reversals, and simultaneities of forms are frequent in Storrs' oeuvre."(xi)
Gray is also pleased to participate in the 2021 edition of Unlimited, debuting a monumental installation of David Hockney’s photographic drawing Pictures at an Exhibition, 2018/2021, the artist’s first photographic drawing to be printed life-size.
Learn more about Gray’s Unlimited presentation with David Hockney here.
i. Jim Dine, quoted in Jim Dine: Walking Memory, 1959-1969 (New York: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1999), 114.
ii. Germano Celant, "'I Love What I'm Doing': Jim Dine, 1959-1969," in Jim Dine: Walking Memory, 21.
v. "Art and artists: Helen Frankenthaler, Chairman of the Board, 1971," The Museum of Modern Art [website] (2009).
vi. Helen Frankenthaler, quited in E.A. Carmean, Jr., "Sesame, 1970," in Helen Frankenthaler: A Paintings Retrospective (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1989), 54.
viii. Chairman of the Board, 1971, MoMA website.
ix. Mark Godfrey, "Civil Tapestry 4," Tate [website] (August 2012).
x. Calvin Tomkins, "Alex Katz's Life in Art," in The New Yorker (August 27, 2018).
xi. Noel Frackman, "Architectonic Sculpture 1920-1923," in John Storrs (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1986), 49-52.