Romare Bearden collages lead African American art at Swann, Dec. 10

African American art

Romare Bearden, Woman and Child, collage, 1968. Estimate $150,000 to $250,000

NEW YORK – Swann Galleries’ fall offering of African American Art comes across the block on Thursday, December 10, with absentee and Internet live bidding through LiveAuctioneers. The auction will present a strong offering of works by notable artists, including Romare Bearden, Charles Alston, Wadsworth Jarrell and artists from the AfriCOBRA collective, as well as sculptors Simone Leigh and Elizabeth Catlett.

Romare Bearden leads the sale with Woman and Child—an impressive collage inspired by Renaissance paintings and imagery of the Madonna and Child, and a significant work from an important 1968 series of collaged figures ($150,000-250,000). Additional collages by Bearden include The Last of the Blue Devils, 1979, originally commissioned as a poster for a film of the same name about the Jazz scene in Kansas City ($35,000-50,000); and Ritual Bayou, a scarce complete set of six 1971 editioned collages ($30,000-50,000). The run of Bearden prints that feature in the sale, as well as the collage The Last of the Blue Devils, come from the estate of Bruce Teleky, a forerunner in the African American poster and print publishing world. Teleky published several posthumous Bearden prints, including several with the Romare Bearden Foundation, as well as the Faith Ringgold print Groovin High, 1996, also available in the sale from the estate ($3,000-5,000).

Significant abstract works include Charles Alston’s 1961 Black and White #8, the largest and most important work to come to auction from a series of eight abstract paintings created between 1959 and 1961 ($100,000-150,000). Ed Clark is available with a 1978 color pastel abstraction from the Louisiana Series ($20,000-30,000). New Born, a 1958 oil-on-canvas painting by Thomas Sills, embodies the important mid-century transition from Abstract Expressionism to color field painting ($50,000-75,000). Color field is represented by Sam Gilliam with Toyopet I, a 1966–1997 acrylic-on-canvas work ($60,000-90,000), and Alma Thomas with Untitled (Composition in Dark Blue Black and Deep Pink), a 1972 acrylic-on-wove paper ($15,000-25,000). Sir Frank Bowling is present with Repose for SO, an excellent example of the artist’s mid-1970s series of “poured paintings” ($75,000-100,000).

African American art

Wadsworth Jarrell, Subway, acrylic on canvas, 1970. Estimate $100,000 to $150,000

A run of AfriCOBRA artists is headed off by the earliest and largest of Wadsworth Jarrell’s significant 1970s paintings to come to across the block. Subway, a brightly colored 1970 acrylic-on-canvas scene of commuters waiting for the subway, exemplifies the goals of political and social consciousness of the movement ($100,000-150,000). Other works include a 1972 color screenprint Revolutionary by Jarrell, after the painting of the same name ($7,000-10,000), and Unite, a 1969 color screenprint by Barbara Jones-Hogu ($6,000-9,000).

Sculpture includes a fine example of Gamin, an iconic sculpture of the Harlem Renaissance, by Augusta Savage, acquired directory from the artist ($20,000-30,000), as well as Sargent Johnson’s charming terra cotta bust Untitled (Sammy), also from the Harlem Renaissance ($50,000-75,000). For the first time Faith Ringgold’s soft sculpture works will come to auction with Tut and Betty, a fabulous disco couple from 1979 ($80,000-120,000). Head, a dynamic 2004 stoneware sculpture by Simone Leigh ($75,000-100,000), Head of Man (Portrait), a 1992 cast bronze work by Elizabeth Catlett ($20,000-30,000), and a pair of Julius sculptures, one painted plater and one cast bronze, by Richmond Barthé ($12,000-18,000) also feature.

African American art

Emma Amos, Water Baby, acrylic and fabric collage, with Kente cloth border, 1987. Estimate $35,000 to $50,000

A strong showing of Contemporary art features Water Baby, 1987, an excellent example of Emma Amos’s late 1980’s series of paintings of women bathers ($35,000-50,000), as well as Beauty, 2001, from Amos’s series of images depicting female figures in silhouette on a non-Western support of hanging fabric ($20,000-30,000). Several prints and multiples by Kara Walker include I’ll Be a Monkey’s Uncle, a large 1996 lithograph ($7,000-10,000), Canisters, a set of six etched glass canisters from 1997, and a set of four etchings and aquatints from 1997 ($12,000-18,000). Photographs by Carrie Mae Weems are available with Untitled (Listening Devices), a 2014 photo-etching, and I Took a Tip from Frida who from her Bed Painted Incessantly-Beautifully…, a 1997 gelatin silver print and the fifth and final image in her Not Manet’s Type series ($5,000-7,000). Donnamaria Bruton, Kerry James Marshall and Kenneth Victor Young round out the contemporary offering with the first of Bruton’s work to come to auction with Prayers for the Innocent, Prayers for the Guilty, a 2003–04 oil-and-collage ($25,000-35,000); Marshall’s 2010 color aquatint Vignette (Wishing Well) ($30,000-40,000); and a striking 2000 color field painting in blues and pinks by Young ($40,000-60,000).


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