John Henry Bradley Storrs (1885-1956)
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John Henry Bradley Storrs (1885-1956)

Abstraction No. 2 (Industrial Forms)

John Henry Bradley Storrs (1885-1956)
Abstraction No. 2 (Industrial Forms)
signed with initials 'J·S' (along the base)--signed and dated 'J·Storrs/21·5·35·' and dated again '(11·12·31)' (under the base)
polychromed terracotta
9 ¾ in. (24.8 cm.) high on a 2 ½ in. (6.4 cm.) bronze and stainless steel base
Executed in 1931-35.
The artist.
Estate of the above, 1956.
Monique Storrs Booz, Winnetka, Illinois, daughter of the above, by descent.
The Downtown Gallery, New York, by 1965.
Robert Schoelkopf Gallery, New York, 1969.
Acquired by the late owner from the above, 1983.
E. Bryant, “Rediscovery: John Storrs,” Art in America, vol. 57, May-June 1969, pp. 66-71, illustrated.
A. Davidson, “John Storrs: Early Sculptor of the Machine Age,” Artforum, vol. 13, no. 3, November 1974, pp. 41, 44, illustrated.
K. Dinin, "John Storrs: Organic Functionalism in a Modern Idiom," The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts, vol. 6, Fall 1987, pp. 49, 57, illustrated.
New York, The Downtown Gallery, John Storrs, March 23-April 17, 1965, no. 38.
Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art, John Storrs, May 3-June 9, 1969.
New York, Robert Schoelkopf Gallery, John Storrs, November 21-December 24, 1970, no. 45.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carnegie Institute, Museum of Art, Forerunners of American Abstraction, November 18, 1971-January 9, 1972, no. 121.
New York, Robert Schoelkopf Gallery, John Storrs, March 4-29, 1975, no. 51.
Chicago, Illinois, Museum of Contemporary Art, John Storrs 1885-1956: A Retrospective Exhibition of Sculpture, November 13, 1976-January 2, 1977, pp. 14-15, 18, illustrated.
Newark, New Jersey, Newark Museum, Geometric Abstractions and Related Works, October 12, 1978- April 1979.
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Fort Worth, Texas, Amon Carter Museum; Louisville, Kentucky, J.B. Speed Museum, John Storrs, December 11, 1986-November 1, 1987, p. 139 (as Industrial Forms No. 2).
St. Louis, Missouri, St. Louis Art Museum; Honolulu, Hawaii, Honolulu Academy of Arts; Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts, The Ebsworth Collection: American Modernism 1911-1947, November 20, 1987-June 5, 1988, pp. 12, 178-79, 221, no. 67, illustrated.
Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art; Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Twentieth-Century American Art: The Ebsworth Collection, March 5-November 12, 2000, pp. 16, 247-48, 251, 299, no. 67, illustrated.
Special notice

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Lot Essay

John Henry Bradley Storrs’s brilliant and original sculptures of the early twentieth century are some of the most important contributions to the modern art movement in America. “As a member of the first generation of modernists, Storrs was a pioneer in his efforts to create abstract and non-objective sculpture of originality and geometric simplicity. It is John Storrs who worked most consistently toward developing a personal vocabulary of abstract forms and who pursued the direction of non-objective art in the most dedicated manner” (N. Frackman, John Storrs, New York, 1987, p. 9). Best-known for his refined architectural imagery paying homage to the modern skyscraper, Storrs executed Abstraction No. 2 (Industrial Forms) during one of this last and most successful periods of creative expression. In classic Storrs fashion, the present work effortlessly blends motifs of industrialization with pure abstraction, adding in polychrome to only heighten such effect.

Storrs executed Abstraction No. 2 (Industrial Forms) in the early 1930s following endeavors into pure painting and large-scale public commissions. Noel Frackman writes of these later works, “After completing his work for the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, Storrs executed independent abstract sculptures—works unencumbered by architects’ demands or exigencies of commissions. In formal terms, these sculptures were of two types: figurative works of essentially Cubist structure updated to emulate the smooth, hard lines and surfaces of currently industrial design; and abstraction that remained primitivizing, also related to Cubism and with Art Deco motifs, but now sleeker and more curvaceous. In content, these works reveal a shift in emotional temperature and a deepening of expressive power, as well as more profound psychological implications. Several of the sculptures, for example, project a spiky aggressiveness and assertiveness that stop just short of brutality. Only Storrs’ natural elegance of line and form reins in these forces” (The Art of John Storrs, exh. cat., New York, 1986, p. 106). These sculptural abstractions received much acclaim when exhibited in 1935. A Chicago art critic wrote of the works, “He produces abstract forms, stern and relentless, but at the same time architecturally and emotionally impressive.” (ibid., pp. 106-107)

Executed in terracotta and painted in polychrome, the present work was likely completed in 1931 and painted four years later in 1935, according to Noel Frackman (N. Frackman, “The Art of John Storrs,” Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1988, p. 299). As a member of the international avant-garde, Storrs was probably looking to his European counterparts in executing such abstract work. For example, by the time he executed Abstraction No. 2 (Industrial Forms), Fernand Léger had already begun working in a biomorphic style based on his earlier machine aesthetic of the 1920s. Frackman has also noted these later abstractions contain an element of Dadaism—a movement which Storrs was briefly associated with in the 1920s—in that profiles of faces have been identified in the sculptures, including the present work. As a result, the present work represents a brilliant culmination of the artist’s dynamic oeuvre. Both executed and painted with a rhythmic and lyrical precision, Abstraction No. 2 (Industrial Forms) blends the very best of Storrs’s mature style with his new innovations in painting and abstract sculpture.

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