Philip Taaffe (b. 1955)
titled 'Cycadaceae' (on the reverse)
acrylic and silkscreened paper collage on canvas
114 ¼ x 112 in. (290.2 x 284.5 cm.)
Executed in 1999.
Gagosian Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
New York, Gagosian Gallery, Philip Taaffe: Recent Paintings, May-June 1999.
Valencia, IVAM Centre Julio Gonzalez, Philip Taaffe, April-July 2000, pp. 150-151 (illustrated)..

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Alexander Berggruen
Alexander Berggruen

Lot Essay

Inspired by the tradition of ornamentation in Western avant-garde art, the American artist Philip Taaffe is a master of scale in patterns. Over the course of his artistic career, Taaffe travelled extensively to the Mediterranean, Morocco, and Middle East, where he encountered the richly colored decorations of frescos, mosaics, and textiles. Cycadaceae belongs to a series of later works that incorporate repetitive natural elements sourced from the artist’s personal library of rare illustrated books. Taaffe was particularly interested in botanical motifs—in this case, cycadaceae is the Latin name for a family of palm-like plants. The work is composed through a series of well-planned steps, usually requiring the artist to craft stencils and make printed papers, which he later applies to the canvas. The vibrant, peacock blue of Cycadaceae is also characteristic of Taaffe’s oeuvre—the drips down from the top of the frame, blending with the exotic design in a psychedelic medley of elements. There is a remarkable sense of movement and rhythm in Cycadaceae—remnants of palms at the top part of the canvas flicker through the watery blue. Reproduced into a pattern, the plant has a feather-like quality and becomes abstracted. The opulent color of Cycadaceae and its embellished pattern call to mind Matisse ‘s floral cutouts and the ceramic tiles of a mosque. Blurring cultural signifiers and focusing on the ornamental functions of art, Cycadaceae establishes a new visual language of motifs drawn from a variety of cultures.

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