Bonhams & Butterfields Made in California Auction May 5

bonhams-auction.jpgOn May 5, 2008 Bonhams & Butterfields features original works by the state’s leading artists in its biannual Made in California sale, simulcast to the San Francisco and Los Angeles salesrooms. With specialists serving its three US galleries — in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Modern & Contemporary Art Department has amassed an extraordinary collection for the summer auction. Works by cutting-edge artists such as Sharon Ellis, Jim Shaw, and Barry McGee are offered alongside mid-century masters including Karl Stanley Benjamin, Peter Voulkos, David Park and Roland Petersen.

The May 5th auction highlights San Francisco’s rich artistic heritage. The sale includes an important David Park painting from the Collection of Rex Mason. Mason was Park’s student at the California School of Fine Arts (now San Francisco Art Institute) from 1945-49. Inspired by European modernists such as Picasso, Miro and Jean Arp, David Park abandoned classical realism in the 1940s and created a series of paintings that he referred to as masks. In these paintings, amoeboid shapes form interlocking profiles caught in the flattened space of modern art. In one lot, an untitled 1945 work, a woman’s profile becomes spatially ambiguous as it shifts between light and dark and profile and frontal views (est. $30/50,000). The painting is being offered with a small drawing on CSFA letterhead presented by the artist to Rex Mason as a graduation gift.

According to Specialist-in-Charge Holly Sherratt, “After Clyfford Still’s arrival at the California School of Fine Arts in 1946, San Francisco became a center for Abstract Expressionism. Thanks to Still and Park’s influence, Claire Falkenstein, Gordon Onslow Ford, Peter Voulkos, Hassel Smith and other artists in this sale brought their own talents to bear on this American genre.” A Gordon Onslow Ford 1968 painting titled Present in Company is expected to bring between $70,000-90,000, and Peter Voulkos’ 1959 painting Passing Red is estimated at $60,000-80,000.

The Spring sale also includes a rare abstract drawing by David Park (est. $8/12,000). By 1949, Park had become dissatisfied with the dominance of abstract art and abandoned his entire cache of abstract paintings at Berkeley’s City Dump. He then developed a new figurative style as he began using spontaneous free flowing lines to depict the human form. Local artists such as Elmer Bischoff, Paul Wonner and James Weeks embraced Park’s vision, frequently joining him to draw from models. Soon, the Bay Area Figurative movement was born. By the mid-1950s these techniques were practiced by many artists represented in the May sale, including: Bruce McGaw, James Weeks, William Theophilus Brown, Nathan Oliveira and Manuel Neri.

Highlights from the Bay Area Figurative section include two sketches by David Park from the late 1950s (each est. $10/15,000), a Paul Wonner drawing titled Model, Mirror and Drawing Group at Don Bachardy’s, 1963-1964 (est. $10/15,000), and three exciting paintings by Roland Petersen: a colorful portrait of a woman donning a hat at $10/15,000; a 1971 summer picnic scene with bold geometric composition at $50/70,000 and a 1963 Spring picnic scene with expressive brushstrokes and heavy impasto at $80/120,000.

Spring’s Made in California auction also highlights the work of several generations of Los Angeles artists. In the late 1960s and early ’70s Southern California’s “finish fetish” artists were experimenting with industrial materials. Larry Bell, Craig Kaufman, Billy Al Bengston, Peter Alexander, DeWain Valentine, Eric Orr and other artists in the sale used plastic, glass, aluminum, or other unconventional materials to create geometric abstract work. The sale includes two oil and lead paintings by Eric Orr (est. $6/8,000 and $10/15,000), a cast polyester resin piece by DeWain Valentine (est. $3/5,000) and a dented aluminum work by Billy Al Bengston (est. $3/5,000).

Later generations of Los Angeles artists are also represented. The sale includes a selection of paintings, drawings and sculptures from the 1980s to the present. Sharon Ellis’ enamel painting Sunken Garden, 1983, will be of particular interest to collectors. In this painting, Ellis places a highly detailed rendering of a meandering vine within an expansive imaginary solar system. “Ellis completes only three or four paintings a year,” says Sherratt, “her artwork is rarely seen at auction.”

The final section of the sale features a collection assembled by the Los Angeles arts community for a charitable cause – several artists and their galleries will offer property sold to benefit one of their own, Morgan Thomas. Thomas was an active presence in the Los Angeles art community in the 1970s. Today, she is in financial need due to injuries suffered in a car accident. Proceeds from the sale of 20 lots will assist with Ms. Thomas’ recovery. Highlights from this section include two silkscreens by Jim Shaw (est. $3/5,000 each), a lithograph by John Baldessari (est. $2,500/3,500) and artwork by Jim Iserman, Morgan Fisher, Bruce Nauman, Peter Alexander and others.

The Los Angeles and San Francisco salesrooms will simulcast the sale on May 5th. The Made in California sale follows the Modern and Contemporary Art sale beginning at 10am. Artwork from both sales previews in San Francisco on April 25-27 and in Los Angeles on May 2-4. The illustrated catalogue is available online for review and purchase at www.bonhams.com/us.

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