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Property from the Collection of Norma and William Roth

Untitled #24

Untitled #24
signed twice, titled and dated 'H. Pindell 1978-79 #24' (on the reverse)
acrylic, paper, powder, sequins and glitter on sewn canvas squares
86 1⁄2 x 103 in. (219.7 x 261.6 cm.)
Executed in 1978-1979.
Lerner-Heller Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1980
J. Wilson, "Howardena Pindell Makes Art That Makes You Wink," Ms. Magazine, May 1980, pp. 2 and 66 (studio view illustrated).
New York, Lerner-Heller Gallery, Howardena Pindell, April 1980.
Orlando, Loch Haven Art Center and The Jacksonville Art Museum, New Decorative Work from the Collection of Norma and William Roth, March-July 1983, p. 37, no. 11 (illustrated).

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Emily Kaplan
Emily Kaplan Senior Vice President, Senior Specialist, Co-Head of 20th Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Across an evocative landscape of encrusted canvas, animated with the delicate glimmers of sequins stitched into the work, the traces of familiar textures construct a dense symbolic landscape. A striking example of Howardena Pindell’s shift from figurative painting into abstractionism, Untitled #24 stands as a monument to the African American struggle for visibility, recognition, and ultimately freedom of expression. Based on Pindell's academic experience in undergraduate and graduate school, her work became more discursive, leaving room for further interpretation, relation, and conversation. Collage became a formal and technical strategy that flourished into a combination of figurative and abstract works. Through the richly worked surface of Untitled #24, Pindell extends her formal and primary teachings of figuration and employs radical abstraction that explores critical questions of identity and visibility.

Perhaps the most ubiquitous of those visual forces dominating the 70s art world was the inescapable grid, a structure that makes an appearance in Untitled #24. While this may at first present as a conformation to the presiding artistic conventions of the decade, Pindell’s use of the grid offers both an affirmation of its formal potentials as well as a knowing subversion of its canonization. Here, Pindell’s using of the grid allows her to speak the same formal language of the most heralded artists of the time, adopting the rigid visual grammar necessary to gain entry into spheres of recognition. Yet, the minute subtleties of the work offer insights into Pindell’s quiet challenging of those same tenets she simultaneously buys into. Her inventive use of sequins, paper, and acrylic dye introduce a feminist energy to the work’s aura, complicating the grid so championed by figures like Carl Andre and Sol LeWitt with simple household materials.

Pindell has stated the importance of African art as an influence in her works from the 1970s: “Black aesthetics for me, means being conscious of African art. I think using aggregates is African, like mixed media putting a lot of different substances together. I see the free flowing thing in my work as African. Also, the kind of surface that I used in the late 1970s when I was adding paper and paint. I can look at specific African references that have a similar surface tension. I think one can also use abstraction and have a black aesthetic because of the way abstraction has been handled in Africa through the use of geometry and patterns” (H. Pindell, quoted in J. Whitehead Theorizing Experience: Four Women Artists of Color, pg. 30).

After graduating from Boston University, Pindell worked as a curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She continued to produce and exhibit her own work during this time, serving as an original member of A.I.R. Gallery, a nonprofit gallery dedicated to showcasing women artists. Her abstract paintings, including the present work, are a hallmark of this period. At the end of 1979, she was in a major car crash that left her with head injuries and memory problems. Her response afterwards was to make her voice heard. Pindell's abstract paintings are richly textured and meticulously designed. She creates these works by painting and hole-punching various pieces of paper, layering these dots and other materials on each canvas in confetti-like arrangements. The artist coats her canvas in paint with a squeegee to complete the process. This physical creation process recalls Gerhard Richter's gestural, squeegee-made paintings of the 1970s.

Pindell offers astute observation to the subtle beauties we can find in the struggles. Untitled #24 is the ultimate embodiment of Pindell firmly placing African American voices into the canon of American painting. In its worked and textured surface, Untitled #24 motions to the interface of beauty in the presence of inequity.

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