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    Sale 2167

    Post War and Contemporary Evening Sale

    13 May 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 40

    Eric Fischl (b. 1948)

    Dog Days

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Eric Fischl (b. 1948)
    Dog Days
    signed, titled and dated 'DOG DAYS 1983 Eric Fischl' (on the reverse of each panel)
    diptych--oil on canvas
    overall: 84 x 168 in. (213.4 x 426.7 cm.)
    Painted in 1983.


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    Painted in 1983, Dog Days occupies the uncomfortable and ambiguous pictorial domain that Eric Fischl has made his own unique terrirory. In the two panels of this important diptych, the same balcony is presented as the scene for a strange encounter. In one, a naked woman gazes unselfconsciously at her dogs, caught in some private moment as she carries a bag inside; in the other, the viewer is the intruder in a moment of sexual exploration between two adolescents. This action takes place incongruously on a balcony that clearly has a view over, and therefore can be seen from, a road with passing cars and a beach where bathers are visible. The juxtaposition of these two scenes is heightened both by the parallel venue and the contrast between the number of people visible in the background, which is in proportion to what one assumes would (or should?) be the privacy of the scene. This leads to a potent sense of the uncanny emanating from Dog Days, despite the invocation of the Californian sun, sand and sea. Like some discordant Contemporary update of Edward Hopper, Dog Days is racked with poignancy, filled with bleaching brightness and buzzes with a strange sexual tension. California, where Fischl studied before spending time in Halifax, Nova Scotia and then returning to New York, appears to have remained a touchstone for his paintings, often acting as the implied, light-drenched, liberated open-air setting for the strange scenes with which he pries open the private acts and private events of his characters, exploring the baggage, hang-ups and prejudices with which so many are indoctrinated and encumbered.

    Nudity, and by extension sexuality, is a key factor in Fischl's paintings. They explore strange situations forcing us to confront some of our own thoughts and feelings about sex. Fischl has stated that, "I paint to tell myself about myself," yet it is also true that his paintings allow us to know ourselves as well (E. Fischl, quoted in A.C. Danto, Eric Fischl 1970-2007, New York, 2008, p. 10). Dog Days is a brazen challenge to notions of prudishness, depicting a pair of private scenes taking place in an expansively public, well-lit, sun-filled space rather than some night-shrouded bedroom. In this sense, Fischl appears to explore, and critique, the senses of shame and self-consciousness that are so often attached to the body and to sex in the West, filtered down through Judaeo-Christian thought, advertising, fashion and so forth. After all, as the artist himself has pointed out,

    Adam and Eve, as everyone knows lived in the Garden, without any clothes... (E. Fischl, quoted in B.W. Ferguson, "Corrupting Realism: Four Probes into a Body of Work," Eric Fischl: Paintings, exh. cat., Saskatoon, 1985, p. 18).

    Provenance

    Mary Boone Michael Werner Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner


    Literature

    A. Sturtevant, "Out Takes from the American Dream," Island, October 1983 (illustrated).
    K. Linker, "Eric Fischl: Involuted Narratives," Flash Art, January 1984, p. 56 (illustrated).
    D. Kuspit, "Eric Fischl's America Inside Out," C, Winter 1984, pp. 14-17 (illustrated).
    D. Kuspit, Fischl, New York, 1987, p. 3-4.
    A. Danto, et al, Eric Fischl 1970-2000, New York, 2000, p. 54 (illustrated in color).


    Exhibited

    New York, Mary Boone Michael Werner Gallery, Eric Fischl, October 1984.
    Saskatoon, Mendel Art Gallery; Eindhoven, Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum; Basel, Kunsthalle; London, Institute of Contemporary Art; Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario and New York, Whitney Museum of Art, Eric Fischl: Paintings, February 1985-May 1986, no. 18-2.
    Milwaukee Art Museum, Treasures from Private Wisconsin Collections, September-November 1987.
    Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute, Carnegie International, November 1985-January 1986.
    Urbana-Champaign, University of Illinois, Krannert Art Museum, New Painting, February-March 1994, p. 17.