MILTON RESNICK (1917-2004)
MILTON RESNICK (1917-2004)
MILTON RESNICK (1917-2004)
MILTON RESNICK (1917-2004)
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A Century of Art: The Gerald Fineberg Collection
MILTON RESNICK (1917-2004)


MILTON RESNICK (1917-2004)
signed and dated '56 Resnick' (lower left); titled '"ULYSSES"' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
57 x 44 in. (144.8 x 111.2 cm.)
Painted in 1956.
The artist
Poindexter Gallery, New York
Private collection, Connecticut
Anon. sale; Shannon’s, Connecticut, 30 April 2020, lot 113
Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
New York, Poindexter Gallery, Resnick, March 1957.
New York, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, Distinctive/Instinctive: Postwar Abstract Painting, February-May 2021.

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Lot Essay

A striking example of Milton Resnick’s celebrated gestural style, Ulysses was realized at a pivotal time for the artist. In 1956, the year it was painted, a positive article in Art News allowed the artist to rise to greater prominence and increased his recognition within the New York art world. From there, inclusion in group exhibitions at the Jewish Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and Tibor de Nagy Gallery further amplified his credentials. However, Jackson Pollock’s untimely death and a growing push for reinvention among the New York painters marked a major shift in the trajectory of American art. Notable for its vigorous brushwork and gestural lyricism, this example of Resnick’s oeuvre makes it abundantly clear that he sprang from the sea change that produced the greats of the New York School and continued to explore the possibilities of paint for years to come.

Using bold, impasto strokes, Resnick creates a tumultuous surface that ruminates upon the properties of the very paint he uses and the internal dialogues that result in disparate mixes of color, line, and form. The lower section is given to an abundance of peach while the upper portion is filled with green in varying shades that collides with blue, white, and yellow. At the heart of the composition is a brick of ruby red that smolders uncontrollably and seems to whip the nearby lines and colors into a frenzy. Adhering to a non-representational mode, Resnick insisted that each viewer was to take from the work what they would, an idea he shared with younger artists like Robert Ryman. He noted, “The ‘seeing’ can be so complex that the possibilities for painting are endless” (M. Resnick, quoted in G. Garrels, Robert Ryman, exh. cat., Dia Art Foundation, New York, 1988, p. 24).

The ‘seeing’ can be so complex that the possibilities for painting are endless.(M. Resnick, quoted in G. Garrels, Robert Ryman, exh. cat., Dia Art Foundation, New York, 1988, p. 24).

Works like Ulysses exhibit the primordial Abstract Expressionist spark, and even though Resnick was dismissed by some as a second-generation member of that movement, he was in fact central to the group of artists that included Willem de Kooning, Pollock, and other luminaries who helped to usher in a new wave of media-specific Modernism to American painting. Roberta Smith, in the artist’s obituary, noted succinctly, “In terms of longevity and dedication to first principles, Mr. Resnick might qualify as the last Abstract Expressionist painter. In terms of timing he had some claim to being among the first” (R. Smith, “Milton Resnick, Abstract Expressionist Painter, Dies at 87,” New York Times, March 19, 2004). Out of all of his colleagues, Resnick especially was always interested more in the physical properties of paint over action, emotion, and other primal forces that some of his fellow painters endeavored to harness in their work. His later works verged on monochromatic with their dense layers and weighty application with a focus on paint over procedure. Delayed in his recognition among the founders of American action painting, Resnick nonetheless persevered to produce a forward-thinking body of work that prioritized media and substance. Ulysses and other canvases from this period are especially relevant to Resnick’s oeuvre as they allowed the artist to finally do away with linearity and to create work completely with paint and an emphasis on physicality.

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