An eerie ridge with an outstretched dark figure sets the haunting scene for emerging artist Cy Gavin (b. 1985) to wrestle with his past, present and future identity, angels and demons alike, in Portrait of My Father (2014), the stand-out example from the artist’s most accomplished period to date. True to his tactile sensibilities, Gavin prefers to excavate emotional histories – his own and others – by way of physical materials, thus seeding his canvas with the unlikeliest pieces of media that continue to prove unexpectedly profound. The present lot is no exception, widely reviewed and now recognized for its shocking incorporation of Gavin’s father’s ashes, in addition to the artist’s own blood and sand from his father’s birthplace, into the work that for the first time goes beyond merely painting the portrait to physically embodying it. “I had been thinking about how a painting can be seen as a time capsule, or in this case a reliquary. My sister had mentioned returning my father’s ashes to Bermuda. In several paintings I incorporated his remains into the paint along with pink sand from Bermuda. Rather than some kind of memorial, I was really placing those materials next to one another to consider their sameness” (C. Gavin, quoted in A. Frank, “Studio Visit: Cy Gavin,” The Studio Museum Harlem, 2017). Other than considering it, “sameness” does not appear to be a major concern for Gavin, who mines the past with insatiable curiosity for the untold stories needed to shed light on today’s distorted collective memory. Comfortable being the agent of discomfort in what he presents, Gavin forges a path to graceful understanding, both on a personal level between late father and son and on the communal level among disparate, dislocated, disenchanted humans.