Rudolf Stingel (b. 1956)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more The Collection of Frances R. Dittmer
Rudolf Stingel (b. 1956)

Untitled (Bolego)

Details
Rudolf Stingel (b. 1956)
Untitled (Bolego)
signed and dated 'Stingel 2007' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
15 x 20½ in. (38.1 x 52.1 cm.)
Painted in 2007.
Provenance
Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2007
Special notice

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Lot Essay

Created in 2007, Rudolf Stingel's Untitled (Bolego) is a strikingly intimate self-portrait, meticulously painted in velvety strokes of gray, charcoal and cream. A rare glimpse into the mind of one of the most innovative artists of our time, Stingel's Untitled (Bolego) is at once powerful and quietly introspective. It relates to an important series of self-portraits created during a profound moment in the artist's career, around the occasion of his fiftieth birthday. A truly postmodern self-portrait, it upends the very nature of self-portraiture as a genre, by questioning the methods of this kind of inward investigation.

In rendering this, his own carefully constructed self-image, Stingel limits himself to a palette en grisaille, which lends an aura of quiet, brooding melancholy to the piece. Balancing a cigarette in his left hand, the artist shields his downturned eyes, so that the viewer acts as a voyeur, privy to a private celebration that's hinted at from the soft glow of the birthday candles barely visible at the painting's lower edge. The artist seems to emerge from the shadows, his crisp, white shirt softly illuminated by the birthday candles' glow. The starkness of the black-and-white image recalls the grainy, often mysterious quality of vintage photographs and the haunting richness of film noir. Indeed, the painting is based upon a photograph taken by the artist's friend, the photographer Roland Bolego. The painting resulted from Stingel's collaboration with Bolego, in which he orchestrated a series of carefully choreographed vignettes that Bolego then captured in film. In this way, the present work achieves Stingel's postmodern objective to create "a picture of a picture."

The rendering of the self typically calls for more introspection and critical insight than any other form of expression. As a subject, it is one of the most intriguing forms of self-representation and has traditionally sought to capture and reveal those essential aspects of the artist's character and inner self. Yet Stingel deliberately obfuscates his own depiction. Since the painting is based upon carefully staged photographs that are transferred onto canvas by means of a grid (which often results in the mirror-image being produced), Stingel removes himself that much further from the process of rendering the self. The resulting painting displays an almost scientific quality of detachment, so that the self-portraits seem to read like scenes from a documentary film. Contrary to their historical precedents, Stingel's self-portraits nearly eliminate any feeling of expression from the finished work.

Throughout his career, Stingel has redefined the parameters of painting. Through his use of widely disparate materials--from carpeting, celotex insulation panels or Styrofoam--Stingel questions the very nature of two-dimensional art, often fusing the boundaries between painting, sculpture and installation art. Untitled (Bolego) is a seminal painting, because,in keeping with his established postmodern praxis,it critically examines and reconfigures the meaning of self-portraiture itself.

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