LARRY POONS (American, born in Toyko, Japan 1937)
    Untitled, 1981
    Acrylic on canvas
    34-3/8 x 21-¾ inches (87.3 x 55.2 cm)
    Signed and dated verso: 1981 / L. Poons

    Private collection

    The American abstract painter Larry Poons had, as David Carrier has noted, "a fast breaking career--he became famous when he was very young." After studying at the New England Conservatory of Music (1955-57) he switched schools to pursue his other artistic interest--painting--at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts in 1958. When he was barely twenty, he attracted critical attention for his elegant paintings in the minimalist/pop vein that had replaced the gestural, emotionally-charged art of the Abstract Expressionists a decade and a half before. The high-grade materiality of paint found in the dripped skeins of enamel by Jackson Pollock, the slashes of pigment made with household brushes in the billboard-sized work of Franz Klein, and the puddling and pouring of thinned out pigment onto a canvas so that it bleeds and drips gave way, in the early sixties, to clarity and flatness. Getting messy with materials had been eclipsed by paint that had to behave according to definite lines, patterns and abstract shapes to achieve optical effects of evenly modulated color. Paintings were preplanned designs. It was into this new art world, where formalism rather than the paint or the gesture reigned supreme, that Larry Poons emerged as a major figure. His work had the grid, the mathematics, the geometry, and the incredible discipline of a Mondrian behind it. But it also had his musical sense, too, of timing and syncopation which gave his early canvases a distinctive, personal timbre.

    But Poons didn't want to keep making the paintings which made him an art star-nor could he. The tide had turned, plus Poons had new interests. By the beginning of the 1970s, Poons wanted to begin exploring the raw materiality of paint, even though the current trends continued to move even further away from the type of paint manipulation that most intrigued him. As the 70s wore on, and moved into the 80s, the most popular art trends were conceptual art, performance art, video art, Neo Geo-all "endeavors" which artist Frank Stella aptly noted were a "drive toward indirect expression, the use of any devices which are not the direct expression of the artist's hand and body."

    Poons-at the top of his game [i.e., art world notoriety]-went against the grain. During the course of the 1970s, he started throwing paint onto canvas-actually along canvases-on the floor. He would apply it exclusively by throwing it layer upon layer, in coats. The coats would build one upon the other, accommodating all intentions and accidents, and sculpt themselves into luscious surfaces. During the course of the 70s, the artist discovered that acrylics worked better than oil because they dried more quickly and were therefore less prone to slip off or crack.

    Poons's method of painting in this untrammeled fashion on the floor on a long continuous piece of canvas has an important second stage. After building up the surface, he selects the sections of the image which have the most dynamic properties, masks them, and cuts them out of the larger field. His imagery is aggressively vertical owing to his method, and to accentuate this quality the artist generally crops his works so that they are narrower in width than length.

    The present work was created according to this procedure, which depends upon the masking and cropping process to capture the most exciting surges of pigment. On the back of the painting, where Poons signs so that he doesn't interrupt the gesture, the paint runs all the way to the very edges of the canvas, providing evidence of his method. This marvelous work of 1981, with its silvery blue palette, shows Larry Poons giving full rein to the sculptural potential of paint.

    Condition Report*:

    In original condition

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    Auction Dates
    May, 2007
    25th Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
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