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Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986)
Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986)

Abstraction

Details
Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986)
Abstraction
white-lacquered bronze
36 in. (91.4 cm.) high
Modeled in 1946; cast circa 1979-80.
Provenance
The artist.
Estate of the above.
Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The Mecom Collection, Houston, Texas.
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 2003.
Literature
C.T. Patten, O'Keeffe at Abiquiu, New York, 1995, p. 62, cover illustration, another example illustrated.
P.H. Hassrick, ed., The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, New York, 1997, n.p., pl. 86, the larger version illustrated.
S.R. Udall, O'Keeffe and Texas, New York, 1998, p. 89, another example illustrated.
B.B. Lynes, Georgia O'Keeffe: Catalogue Raisonné, vol. II, New Haven, Connecticut, 1999, p. 711, nos. 1133-39, another example illustrated.
B. Haskell, ed., Georgia O'Keeffe: Abstraction, New Haven, 2001, p. 144, the smaller version illustrated.
B.B. Lynes, O'Keeffe's O'Keeffes: The Artist's Collection, New York, 2001, pp. 175, 182, pl. 60, another example illustrated.
J.S. Czestochowski, ed., Georgia O'Keeffe: Visions of the Sublime, Memphis, Tennessee, 2004, p. 152, the smaller version illustrated.
B.B. Lynes, Georgia O'Keeffe Museum Collections, New York, 2007, p. 68.
J. Stuhlman, Georgia O'Keeffe: Circling around Abstraction, Manchester, Vermont, 2007, p. 33.
N.H. Reily, Georgia O'Keeffe, A Private Friendship: Walking the Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch Land, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2011, p. 94.
B. Haskell, et al., Georgia O'Keeffe: Abstraction, exhibition catalogue, New York, 2009, pp. 144, 173, 232, pl. 144, the smaller version illustrated.

Lot Essay

Georgia O’Keeffe, one of the most celebrated figures in modern art, is primarily known for her paintings. Abstraction, is a rare and important example of one of only three sculptural motifs O’Keeffe created in her seven decade career. In Abstraction, O'Keeffe brilliantly translates the keen observation of nature that characterizes her paintings and works on paper into a three-dimensional form. Of her three sculptures, Abstraction best embodies O'Keeffe's lifelong fascination with nature and abstraction.

O’Keeffe created her first sculpture, also titled Abstraction, in 1916 to commemorate the passing of her mother. The vertical form, cast in similar white-lacquered bronze, was O’Keeffe’s memento mori. The present work is the second sculpture O’Keeffe made. In the summer of 1945, O’Keeffe hosted her friend and sculptor Mary Callery at her home at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico. Callery was known for her sinuous bronzes of acrobats and dancers. Perhaps the time spent with Callery inspired O’Keeffe to try her hand once more at sculpture. Although O’Keeffe sculpted the maquette for the present work in 1946, she did not have it cast until 1979-80. The present work is one of a small group of bronzes of this theme, which O’Keeffe had cast in three sizes: 10 inches, 36 inches, and 118 inches.

The spiral form of Abstraction is one O’Keeffe returned to throughout her career, exploring it in a range of media, including watercolor, pastel and oil. The swirling spiral first made an appearance in O’Keeffe’s work as early as 1916 in the watercolor Blue I. The motif would reappear in various forms often over her long career, such as in the pastel Goat’s Horn with Blue from 1945, which depicts the horn of a goat’s skull, magnified almost to abstraction. O’Keeffe’s friend and fellow Stieglitz circle member Arthur Dove incorporated similar white spiraling forms and, in Chinese Music, he uses this iconography to convey the rhythms and forces of the natural world. The rhythm is conveyed through the progressively stacked white disks at left, whose endless spinning suggests expansive movement, much like O’Keeffe’s Abstraction.

Abstraction, with its white coloration and organic lines is reminiscent of O'Keeffe's bone paintings. When she first traveled to New Mexico in 1929, O'Keeffe was fascinated by the objects she found in the landscape and began a collection of bones worn by wind and water. They became her "symbols" of the desert and she would depict them in many paintings. O'Keeffe explained that she was "most interested in the holes in the bones--what I saw through them--particularly the blue from holding them in the sun against the sky." (as quoted in C.C. Eldredge, Georgia O'Keeffe, New York, 1991, p. 136) Perhaps she envisioned Abstraction to stand outside against a blue sky and colorful landscape much like her pelvis paintings. According to Jonathan Stuhlman, Abstraction, “seems to take inspiration as much from her early whirlpool forms as from the voids of her later pelvis paintings. Its spiraling form, sometimes thought to have been inspired by the curling tendrils of jimson weed, connects three decades of O’Keeffe’s artistic innovation, pulling viewers’ eyes hypnotically toward its center and encouraging them to look both through it and at it simultaneously.” (Georgia O’Keeffe: Circling around Abstraction, Manchester, Vermont, 2007, p. 33)

The present work is from an edition of four.

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