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The Collection of Thomas and Doris Ammann

1847; 1851; 1855; 1880; 2173 [Five Works]

1847; 1851; 1855; 1880; 2173 [Five Works]
signed, titled and dated '1847. Masullo. 88.' (on the reverse)
oil on wood, in artist's frame
8 1⁄4 x 7 7⁄8 x 1 1⁄8 in. (21 x 20 x 2.9 cm.)
Executed in 1988.

paper collage on eight paper tiles, in velvet-lined wooden box
overall: 5 x 4 1⁄4 in. (12.7 x 10.8 cm.)
Executed in 1988.

signed, titled and dated '1855. Masullo. 88.' (on the reverse)
paper collage on photograph, in artist's frame
8 x 10 1⁄2 in. (20.3 x 26.7 cm.)
Executed in 1988.

paper collage on photograph
6 1⁄2 x 9 in. (16.5 x 23 cm.)
Executed in 1988.

book construction—photograph, paper collage and glass within found book
8 1⁄2 x 5 1⁄2 x 1 1⁄2 in. (21.6 x 14 x 3.8 cm.)
Executed in 1989.
fiction/nonfiction, New York
Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, Zurich
Acquired from the above by the present owner
New York, fiction/nonfiction, Andrew Masullo, April 1989, n.p., no. 20 (illustrated, 1855 and 1880 only).
New York, fiction/nonfiction, Andrew Masullo, October 1990 (2173. only).
Zurich, Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, Andrew Masullo, December 1999-February 2000, no. 54 (2173. only).
Sale room notice
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Michael Baptist Specialist

Lot Essay

Known as a “painters’ painter,” San Francisco based artist Andrew Masullo works tirelessly to shift our perception of the world. He has been exhibiting his work for over thirty years, and, according to New York Times co-chief art critic Roberta Smith, “its freshness persists” (R. Smith, “Andrew Masullo: ‘Recent Paintings,’” New York Times, November 25, 2010). Hailing from a working-class family in New Jersey, Masullo studied art at Rutgers in the late 1970s and began to develop his signature style, what he calls “nonobjective painting,” a genre of abstraction that refuses reference and aims for emotional heft. The present work gives us insight into Masullo’s boundary-pushing mixed media work that includes and expands painting. Intimate in scale and grand in ambition, his 1847.; 1851.; 1855.; 1858.; 1880 [Five Works] (1988) combines painting, collage, and found objects in order to give an all-encompassing view of art, eroticism, the medium, history, and the mind itself. A recipient of a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship, Masullo’s work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, where it was shown in the 2012 Whitney Biennial.

The present work is comprised of five interrelated, transhistorical elements centered on found images: a photograph of a woman with the words one through six collaged upon her face and hair, a disembodied pair of legs, this time overlaid with the words one through four, a portrait of a woman with sixteen painted golden squares, a velvet-lined box filled with eight mysterious images, and a swatch of luxurious ermine fur atop a hidden photograph and encased in a frame. Each speaks to the other because of Masullo’s choice to resurrect and recombine them. What results is a fascinating inquiry into the relationship between media both in our contemporary moment and when these found images were originally created. In the mid-to-late 19th century, the photograph was a very young medium, and its relationship to painting and other art forms was hotly debated. A similar debate would rage in the 1970s and 1980s. Here, Masullo connects painting, photography, text, and the readymade, producing a tactile array of objects that never ceases to yield novel meanings.

The early twentieth-century avant-gardes, especially the work of Wassily Kandinsky, are important to Masullo, and we might expand that relationship to include the Dadaists and Surrealists. A comparison between 1847.; 1851.; 1855.; 1858.; 1880 [Five Works] And Marcel Duchamp’s La Boîte-en-valise series (1935-40) is apt. Both are retrospectives, combining disparate parts into a united vision of an artist. Though Masullo uses in large part found images, his act of choosing them, in the tradition of Duchamp’s readymade, becomes a portrait of Masullo as well with all the subjective choices inherent to his work. Dreamlike in its wild and glamorous associations, 1847.; 1851.; 1855.; 1858.; 1880 [Five Works] also recalls Surrealist photography, which used visual juxtapositions to tap into the vastness of the mind.

Always following his intuition, Masullo says of his practice, “It’s trial and error, making mistakes and figuring things out along the way. I make no preparations to start a painting and have no clue where I’ll wind up. It sometimes takes months before I even know which end points north” (A. Masullo and S. Butler, “Andrew Masullo: I don’t believe in agendas,” Two Coats of Paint, December 1, 2010). Five Works 1880., 1855., 1858., 1851., 1847. Is exemplary of Masullo’s associative and surprising approach, which centers radical choice as the root of new forms of artmaking.

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