Peter’s picks of the day focus on five exquisite figural paintings by artists the general public may not be familiar with, but who are nonetheless outstanding talents–and were showcased in L.A.’s finest galleries during the great flowering of the 1960s.
Lot 64, Daniel Broadbender’s Untitled (Three Women’s Faces), strongly evokes 1920s German Expressionist approach to mood and line. The background figures have flat, blue ovals for eyes–blanks slates that portray either sadness or bliss, depth or emptiness, while the central figure’s mask-like face is nonetheless furrowed with intensity. Whoever thought brown eyes could be called fiery?
Lot 65, Sheila Wrono’s Untitled Nude, strongly resembles Wrono’s contemporary, Tom Wesselmann, though this is hardly the case of one artist emulating another, rather two superb painters rising from the same sensibility. The nude’s pose is both explicitly sexual, and quite literally primitive, curling into the frame like a orangutan as if trying to squeeze into the canvas’ small size – – cramped by it, waiting to burst from it, her wig-like red shocks of hair beckoning us.
Contrast Wrono’s wild child with the pensive, restful figure in Lot 66, Sherman Labby’s Sunday Morning. Where before the nakedness is born of desire, here the figure is nude because there is no need to be otherwise. She has her paper, her breakfast, and all the time in the world (at least until Monday morning). Bathed in the cool white light of the a.m., her body casting a beautiful blue shadow, our subject gazes out the window, not with longing but contentment.
Displaying a whole other kind of satisfaction is the society matron of Lot 67, Vernon Lobb’s Untitled 1963 portrait. Framed like a paparazzi’s loose snapshot she is Jackie K…or the boss’ wife. Entitled, forever looking down with grace and far, far away, her funereal black uniform of the rich almost seeming to rise out of her oversized shopping bag of Rodeo Drive treasures. Only the muted deathly green of her skin and environs suggest she’s living a more complicated reality.
With our final painting of the day, Peter suggests James Jarvaise’s 1961 Untitled (Figure by the Window). One can imagine Mr. Dorso out on one of those great La Cienega art walks some 50 years ago, ambling into the Felix Landau Gallery (one of the most important galleries of the era) and walking out with this terrific mix of somber and brilliant. As with Wrono, Jarvaise can be compared with an artist of a similar style, this time to the great David Park but as before neither artist is imitating the other. Color-wise, the background is treated as foreground and the foreground is treated as background, to the point where the window behind the subject threatens to become the star. It is the background that is given vivid blocks of color and a relatively three-dimensional draftsmanship. On the other hand, the forlorn male at the painting’s center has a face muted and flat, his round Charlie Brown head is drawn in a childlike manner. He resembles not a painted subject at all but an underpainting, a crude sketch for where the artist would have put his protagonist, had he not forgotten to do so. One can speculate on whether this was a comment on the subject’s race, on how in 1961 the black male was relegated to society’s backdrop, even if he was across the table from you, even if he was three feet away.
Lot 64 Daniel Brobender Untitled (Three women’s faces) second half of 20th century Oil pastel on paper “Daniel Brobender” written on back of frame Sheet 11″ x 13.75″; Frame 17″ x 20″ Estimate $500 – 700
Lot 65 Sheila Wrono Untitled (Nude) 1964 Oil on panel Signed verso Panel: 4.25″ x 3.75″; Frame: 5.5″ x 5″ Estimate $500-700
Lot 66 Sherman Labby Sunday Morning c. 1965-75 Oil on canvas Signed verso; signed lower right; Ankrum Gallery label verso Canvas: 11″ x 7″; Frame: 11.5″ x 7.5″ Estimate $500 – 700
Lot 67 Vernon Lobb Untitled (Portrait of woman in glasses and coat) 1963 Oil on board Signed and dated lower right Canvas 5.5″ x 4.5″; Frame 8″ x 7″ Estimate $500 – 700
Lot 68 James Jarvaise Untitled (Figure by Window) 1961 Oil on canvas Initialed and dated lower right; Felix Landau Gallery label verso Canvas: 12.25″ x 10.25″; Frame: 13″ x 11″ Estimate $2,000 – 3,000