Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Walasse Ting was among one of the most sought-after and dynamic artists working in New York. Ting caught the attention of collectors and dealers alike, working first in Paris and acquainting himself with CoBrA artists before moving to New York and eventually developing his signature, exuberant and highly coloristic style.
His highly embodied, emboldened expressivity is most apparent in So Much Sunshine (Lot 436) and I'm Rainbow on Shooting Star (Lot 567). In these non-figurative works, Ting explores pure aesthetic associations as a matter of form, colour and velocity. So Much Sunshine from the late 1960s presents a solid blue background conjuring the expansiveness of the sky and sea, over which impressionistic fields of white, yellow, and pink surge, accented by splatters of black. They are reminiscent of Claude Monet's Water Lilies, but are liberated from representation and instead suggest an unmediated communion with nature and colour. Similarly, in the monumental I'm Rainbow on Shooting Star, Ting provides a slightly acrid mustard background across which neon pinks and oranges are launched, followed by a trail of yellow, green, and violet like the remnants of an asteroid belt. As his friend and fellow artist, Pierre Alechinsky, wrote, "(Ting) loves splashes of colour for they are flowers in reality. He paints fluidly, and then nothing exists but the flower which are, in reality, splashes". Ting works with the spontaneity and purity of expression associated with the action painting of Jackson Pollock, but his paintings are equally rooted in inspiration from the material world. A later canvas, Wet Roses (Lot 564) may in principle be descriptive of the natural world, but it is equally an opportunity for a symphonic play of contrasting natural and neon colours, an ecstatic magnification of colour and nature that exceeds nature itself.
By the 1970s, Ting returned to his earlier figurative subjects, using them as further his formal concerns, injecting his sly, bawdy sensibility into even in the most seemingly tame compositions. In Two Ladies with a Pink Horse (Lot 565), the highly masculine figure of the horse, rendered in a girlish pink, dominates the composition, filling the work with an unspoken innuendo, reminding us of the myths of antiquity in which maidens were visited by gods who had taken animal form.
Although not a Pop artist, Ting's increasingly lurid and playful colour palette and interest in sexuality evolved in tandem with a heightened interest among artists over the impact of consumer culture in America. Some works, like Three Women (Lot 435) or Two Ladies (Lot 566) are conceived with relative restraint, the darker tones of the background or the women's dress contrasted with scattering of flowers in their hair, dress and fans that enliven the composition. In other cases, the implicit sensuality of the subjects is invoked with a wink to the viewer. In the Untitled (Lot 431) ink and gouache work from 1987, the central nude stands among her more bashful maids with the rakish confidence of Mae West. In the large scale Three Geishas (Lot 434), the women are more garishly painted than ever before, and the composition is radically foreshortened, the lurid colours and the prominence of the watermelon highlighting a dizzying conflation of sensuality and consumption in both subject and palette.
Like Wesselmann, Ting's compositions featuring reclining women explicitly linked the classical odalisque with contemporary centrefolds and America's increasingly sexualized mass media culture. I Waiting for You Always (Lot 432) is a classic example of this style, the figure in a loose negligee, the bouquet of flowers, a conventional stand-in for female sexuality, all but overtaking the canvas in an exuberant splay of colour, with a cat tensely coiled as a mute witness. In the unique large-scale work on paper Lady with Parrot (Lot 433), the reclining figure has shifted her attention from a dreamy reverie to the contemplation of Ting's metonymic representations of sensual joy. The background of the canvas is filled with smaller compositions: peacocks, a woman with a fan emblazoned with fish, splays of colour and flowers. The main figure is joined by a parrot, a traditional religious symbol of virginity. Whether in poetry, abstract, or figurative painting, sexuality and visual puns were in many ways simply an extension of the sensuality, aesthetic pleasure and humour Ting sought in all things, resulting in a completely singular body of work.