Passion in Black and White: Love Burns Achromatically in Artnet Auctions’ Latest Post-War and Contemporary Sale
The story’s creators relied on powerful contrast to reflect the dual nature of passionate love: how else to convey its simultaneous depths of pain and heights of pleasure, but in black and white? Poet Frank O’Hara in his 1950s magnum opus Meditations in case of emergency summoned the image of a pale white glow on Saint Serapion’s post-mortem face – done in painting primarily by Francisco de Zurbarán – to explain the acute euphoria and doom he feels when he kisses the “alone man” whom he adores “unshaven”. For O’Hara and his artistic offspring, this mimetic contrast between black and white, generating a singular warmth close to a chiaroscuro of Zurbarán, immortalized personal and cultural passions, of an almost religious, unfathomable temperature.
O’Hara’s contemporary, Andy Warhol, also wrestled with a desire so strongly inflamed that only the energy of immensely separated chromatic distances – but united on the canvas – could evoke his own as in O’Hara’s words. “love without limits”. Warhol met Paramount executive Jon Gould in 1980, and until Gould’s death and afterward, Warhol faced a piercing acumen around his sometimes unrequited sexual desire: “Then the phone rang and c It was Jon who called as if nothing had happened, as if it hadn’t happened”. I didn’t go away for the weekend and didn’t call once,” he lamented in a June 1981 diary. Gould contracted pneumonia in 1984, at the start of the AIDS crisis in New York. ; and historians have recently reanalyzed Warhol’s late-career theological work in response to the metropolitan emergency. Gould died of the disease in 1986, and it is perhaps no exaggeration to read a temporal connection between Gould’s death and the black-and-white message in Warhol’s 1985–86 mark of the beast. His biblical reckoning of love and loss was so intense that it charged Warhol’s blood with a flashing pulse, visible in his searing graphic style of liquid polymer, ever closer “to the number of the beast: for c is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six” (Revelation 13:18).
The struggle to shape a revised theology that penetrates deep into the body, blending the nuances of the hottest point of a candle flame and its fleetingly extinguished wick, is a quest that persists in queer painting today. . It is therefore not surprising that artist Adam Pendleton’s pursuit of such spiritualism led him to devote social and spiritual activist Ruby Sales At the movie theater. Sales, in 2016, expressed a need to touch what is magnificent inside, at times when one wonders where it hurts. Where Saint Serapion’s incandescent glow through the shadows provided O’Hara with both a grave for his love and a path from which to depart to freedom, “springing like the lotus – the ecstasy of forever bursting forth! ” – Pendleton’s syntactical jets of black on white emit the brilliance of a love so daringly delicate, it can momentarily detach the soul from limitation; and through this achromatic make-up, her burning passion blossoms through pressing questions of identity in Untitled (Who are we?). Vertical stacks of fine chords flow downwards like a musical score tilted on the infinite axis of a Christian cross, or a keyboard stretched to the edge of emotion. The inscrutable puddles of midnight cut from language, then layered, evoke Pendleton’s sense of a poetry so extraordinary that it must, at its physical core, break with the world.
A thriving, yet rapidly and repeatedly incinerated incantation of life defines punk expression both sonically and visually – and Raymond Pettibon is an oracle for 1990s emblems of violently haunted love that cries out in black and white, sweating with uncontrolled seduction. Pettibon manages to convey what his friends Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth represent about a romance so precarious it could dissolve in a field of searing pain, with the unpredictable speed of a car crash: “I can’t move, it’s all about broken… pain, white light , blinded… a guy over there kneeling in the blinded mirage of white light.” In Untitled (It goes without…) (1990), Pettibon turns to Tolstoy Anna Karenina to reflect accordingly on the type of “burning ember” the group has canonized. A man’s muscular back heroically kneels as if momentarily emerging from an “excruciatingly painful period of time” (In the Kingdom #19, 1986) which could perhaps be compared to that of Count Vronsky; suffering at the end of the novel, he sees Karenina scarred as “a withered flower he picked, hardly recognizing in her the beauty for which he picked and ruined her.” In Pettibon’s distinctive hand, his Vronsky emanates with warmth, knowing the dark power of the extremes of his love to inflict hellish, lustful doubt.
Browse these works and more by Harold Ancart, Vivian Springford and Sherrie Levine in the Post-War and Contemporary auction, live through November 2.
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