We are delighted to present a formidable private single-owner collection of American contemporary art in the upcoming Winter Quarterly Auction: fifty lots of paintings, prints, and sculptures by important artists whose work is housed in major museums around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. It dwells right here at home, too. A painting by Alex Katz (b. 1927)—the arresting, richly colored, cinematically dramatic, and indeed movie screen-sized (but intimately depicted) Six Women (1975)—hangs prominently in the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, one of the jewels of the museum’s permanent collection.
At the spry age of ninety, the Brooklyn-born Katz has ascended to an eminent height in American art, and he is very much alive and kicking: In a recent New York Times interview, he called this “the most productive time in my life.” Three Katz exhibitions are currently running in the US. Best known for his proto-Pop Art, vividly colored, boldly figural large-scale paintings, Katz also works in lithographs, prints, and sculptures. Our Winter Quarterly Auction features three Katzes: the beautifully composed, cool-hued silkscreen Luna Park (1965); a landscape lithograph, Late July II, evocative of Katz’s summer studio in Maine; and the lively, radiant, complexly conceived and executed Ukulele (1981), a painting in the classic Katz style. The Winter Quarterly Auction presents a chance to own work by one of America’s foremost living artists.
The sale also features a North Carolina history of American studio glass art. Harvey Littleton (1922-2013), widely considered the founder of the American studio glass art movement, was born in upstate New York and established his career as a longtime faculty member at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. In 1977 he and his family moved to Spruce Pine, North Carolina, where he spent the last thirty-five years of his life, continuing to work in glass; he also established a second studio in printmaking.
Littleton’s was the first modern glasswork to be acquired by the Metropolitan Museum in New York; he is undoubtedly one of the seminal figures in American art. The Littleton glass in the Winter Quarterly Auction, Double Sliced Descending Form, dates to 1990—near the very end of Littleton’s glass career, when back problems forced him to focus his attention on printmaking. This four-piece creation is gracefully curved, almost swanlike, colored in lustrous blue, coral, and pink, and set on a white acrylic base atop an ebonized wood plinth, a striking and elegant piece.
Littleton’s artistic heirs include a pair of North Carolina artists featured in the Winter Quarterly Auction. Littleton was influential in the construction of the glass studio at the Penland School of Crafts in the North Carolina mountains. Penland’s first resident artist in glass was Mark Peiser (b. 1938), whose Five Months Too Soon, part of the Chicago-born Peiser’s Innerspace Series (1983-1994), is a prowlike piece that cuts a dramatic, angular figure, balanced by a soft, warm interior design of sun and dusky sky. Peiser’s work is found in important museums around the world, including the Art Institute of Chicago; the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia; the Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, Sapporo, Japan; and many others.
Jon Kuhn (b. 1949) is yet another studio glass artist who lives and works in North Carolina. Widely popular and well-represented throughout the state, Kuhn’s work, like Littleton’s, can be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and in museums and collections worldwide. Kuhn is well-known for his unusual method of facture. Rather than working in molten or blown glass, he cuts and polishes cold glass, which he fuses into shapes from the inside out. Kuhn’s pieces are at once reflective and refractive, with a faceted diamondlike brilliance. The tower-shaped Coral Sonata (1986) is a strong, stately, and vivid piece that commands attention in any room.
And speaking of commanding attention, towering work, and artists with work in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Winter Quarterly Auction also features Bryan Hunt’s (b. 1947) Bear Run I, a monumental sculpture with a remarkable pedigree: the nearly ten-foot bronze was part of a series commissioned by Edgar Kaufmann, jr. for Frank Lloyd Wright’s landmark Fallingwater in Pennsylvania. The piece is marvelously tactile and organic, belonging to an iconic moment in American art and architectural history and magnificent in its own right.
We are also delighted that the private collection offered in the Winter Quarterly Auction includes two local artists whose work will be familiar to our clients. We set a public sales record for work by Herb Jackson (b. 1945) in our September sale, and we are glad to feature four more Jackson pieces in the upcoming December auction. Veronica’s Veil XC (1987) represents the epitome of Jackson’s work, from his highest creative period. An eminent professor of art at Davidson College from 1969-2011, major paintings by Jackson are currently featured in the inaugural exhibition at the Gregg Museum of Art and Design at North Carolina State University. His star has never been brighter.
Also associated with North Carolina State University art was George Bireline (1923-2002), who taught at the school for thirty years. The Winter Quarterly Auction features his painting Big Green (1966), a superb example of the vivid, bold color and line of the mid-1960s: Bireline’s work offered a “generous feast” of color, as the New York Times art critic put it in a 1964 review of Bireline’s solo show at André Emmerich Gallery in New York City. He is an important North Carolina painter who, like his fellow Tar Heel artists in the upcoming sale, exemplify the state’s global artistic reach.