Prints & Drawings’ Specialist Picks: What to Watch in the November 16, 2023, Contemporary Art Auction

Our Prints & Drawings department shares their picks for the November 16, 2023, sale of Contemporary Art.

Meagan Gandolfo, Specialist
Lot 119: Norman Ives, Untitled, 1977

In the Prints and Drawings Department, we are familiar with Norman Ives through his partnership with Sewell Sillman, and their founding of the print publishing company Ives-Sillman, Inc. Ives, however, was himself an artist and graphic designer. He began creating collages in the 1950s after graduating from Yale’s Graphic Design program. With painstaking precision, Ives cut, arranged, and glued down printed letter forms and designs from his own shop, resulting in a wonderful mosaic of subtle shifts in tonality.  While we have offered Ives-Sillman’s best-known screenprint portfolio, Josef Albers’ Interaction of Color every year, we rarely have the opportunity to offer work from the visionary artist “behind the screens” of some of the most iconic print publications of the twentieth century. 

Left: Norman Ives, Untitled, printed paper collage on paper, 1977. Estimate $1,500 to $2,500.

Todd Weyman, Director
Lot 148: Roy Lichtenstein, Crying Girl, 1963

Roy Lichtenstein, Crying Girl, color offset lithograph, 1963. Estimate $30,000 to $50,000.

Roy Lichtenstein’s Crying Girl, 1963, is among the icons of early Pop Art printmaking. The artist designed the print as an announcement for his solo exhibition at Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, September 26–October 24, 1963. This was the inaugural collaboration of Lichtenstein and Castelli using such an exhibition announcement. A portion of the printings for the announcement were left unfolded, untrimmed (with white margins), and pencil signed by Lichtenstein, such as the current work, available for purchase at the gallery during the exhibition or given to prominent gallery patrons; a larger group of the announcements were trimmed, folded in quarters and mailed to Castelli’s list. Extant examples like this one, with its strong colors and superb state of preservation, are extremely scarce, given the more ephemeral nature of the announcement when it was originally produced, and predating Lichtenstein’s meteoric rise in artistic fame through the 1960s. According to Lichtenstein’s printing collaborator on the project, Marcus Ratliff at Colorcraft, New York, the artist had difficulty selecting the proper red pigment to use, but finally settled on the shade when, looking around his office, found it on a package of L & M cigarettes in the vending machine in the hall.

Alayna Ho, Department Administrator
Lot 197: Ellsworth Kelly, Colored Paper Image XV (Dark Gray and Blue), 1976.

Colored Paper Image XV (Dark Gray and Blue) is a rare detour from Kelly’s tight and pristine print works. In his first and only foray into the medium of papermaking, Kelly experiments with color and allows the unpredictability of paper pulp and pigments to dictate his work. With dye bleeding into the margins, pulp extending out from the edges, and texture left behind in the fields of color, he allows traces of the process to be left behind in the final result, giving the viewer a rare sighting of the artist’s hand. Despite being met with positive reviews, Kelly saw this work as unsuccessful and ultimately lost interest in the medium, however, it acted as inspiration to David Hockney who later went on to collaborate with the same papermakers Kelly worked with to create his well known Paper Pool series.  

Right: Ellsworth Kelly, Colored Paper Image XV (Dark Gray and Blue), colored and pressed pulp paper, 1976. Estimate $20,000 to $30,000.

Tatiana Mezitis, Prints & Drawings Intern
Lot 108: Stephen Antonakos, Sky of Mani, 1987

Stephen Antonakos, master of neons and colorful geometric prints, blurs the frontier between minimalism and abstraction. His works traverse a wide variety of mediums including collages, sculptures, and lithographs. Part of what makes his art stand out is his ability to manipulate color and contrast. Sky of Mani is a striking example of Antonakos’ gestural capacity, particularly because of the three distinct planes of composition. The top section, a deeply glittering violet, evokes a nighttime sky, whereas the glittering white in the central section brings to mind the dazzling Greek sunshine. On the very bottom, a stripe of solid green provides a surprising contrast and adds an abstract dimension to this intriguing print. As a Greek-American with familial roots in Mani, I appreciate the setting that inspired this piece, and am drawn to Antonakos’ style in general.