ILANA SAVDIE (b. 1986)
ILANA SAVDIE (b. 1986)
ILANA SAVDIE (b. 1986)
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ILANA SAVDIE (b. 1986)

A High-pitched Complicity

ILANA SAVDIE (b. 1986)
A High-pitched Complicity
signed, titled and dated 'Ilana Savdie 2020 "A High-pitched Complicity"' (on the reverse)
oil, acrylic and beeswax on canvas mounted on panel
58 x 48 ¼ in. (147.4 x 122 cm.)
Executed in 2020.
Hesse Flatow, New York
Private collection, United States
Acquired from the above by the present owner
New York, Hesse Flatow, Common Expression: Gordon Hall, Carrie Rudd, Ilana Savdie, Howard Spann and Alina Tenser, December 2020-January 2021.

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Kathryn Widing
Kathryn Widing Vice President, Senior Specialist, Head of 21st Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Ilana Savdie, who was raised in Barranquilla, Colombia and Miami and is now based in Brooklyn, has painted one of her most intoxicating canvases with A High-pitched Complicity. It is a masterclass in texture that also draws from art history, social media and other references such as the Colombian tradition of Carnaval. Following Jasper Johns’s use of encaustic, Savdie uses oil paint alongside beeswax, which lends an immediacy to her brushstrokes. Intense admixtures of red, pink, green, yellow, and blue meld with each other in vertical and horizontal layers without losing their agency or uniqueness. The rigor of A High-pitched Complicity brings to mind the Color Field paintings of Helen Frankenthaler, especially the vibrant reds of February’s Turn (1979), a recent profile confirms this comparison, “[Savdie’s] first prominent solo exhibition…quickly earned her comparisons to Helen Frankenthaler, the influential Color Field painter whose abstract paintings were also deeply saturated in bold hues” (S. Eckardt, “In the Studio With Ilana Savdie, the Artist Testing the Body’s Limits,” W Magazine, July 7, 2022). In works such as the present example, Savdie exhibits a complex, rigorous relationship to the medium that is nevertheless beautiful and sensual.

A High-pitched Complicity is filled with mystery. Its title is opaque, but it poetically refers to sound, perhaps fear or excitement, and some kind of fraught relationship. The abstraction of the present work flirts with figuration as body parts materialize and melt as they might on an Instagram feed. We might see a lung, a face, maybe the bottom of a foot. Yet no concrete narrative emerges, allowing the viewer to create their own story from Savdie’s rainbow landscape. This anti-narrative imagery connects Savdie to the Surrealists, especially the women associated with the movement like Leonora Carrington, Frida Kahlo, Dorothea Tanning, and Meret Oppenheim. A High-pitched Complicity takes the dizzying worldbuilding of, say, Carrington’s Ferret Race (Stoat Race) (1952) and translates it into our current hyperconnected, social media-saturated world. Savdie suggests that, in the twenty-first century, the real has become increasingly surreal.

After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design and the Yale School of Art, Savdie’s career has quickly gained international praise. Ilana Savdie: Radical Contractions is on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York until November 5. She has been included in prestigious group exhibitions at the Museum aan de Stroom, Antwerp, Belgium (2019), Kunstraum Potsdam, Germany (2021), the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (2021), and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2023). Her work is included in public and private collections worldwide, such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and the Burger Collection, Hong Kong.

A review in Artforum of Savdie’s first solo show at White Cube, London sums up her immense contributions to contemporary painting, “The hues seem to stream down the top of the canvas, their shifting depths and layers never quite settling. Savdie, it seems, prefers her universe fluid and volatile,” (M. Cheale, “Ilana Savdie: White Cube Bermondsey,” Artforum, September 2022). That fluidity reflects not only Savdie’s cosmopolitan upbringing, but also the myriad of media and images with which we must contend every day. Ultimately, A High-pitched Complicity reflects our corporeality on us. As Savdie theorizes, “It’s all of the body, the way painting always feels like it’s of the body. It also reminds me of my own” (I. Savdie, quoted in J. Wahi, “Euphoric and Grotesque”: Ilana Savdie on Painting Parasites,” Interview Magazine, December 17, 2021). Savdie is our mirror.

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