Estimate: £1,500,000 - £2,500,000
ca. US$1,954,282 - US$3,257,138
Price realised: £3,129,000
Property of an Important Private Collector Joan Mitchell Follow Perch and Twirl signed 'Joan Mitchell' lower right oil on canvas 258.4 x 179.7 cm (101 3/4 x 70 3/4 in.) Painted in 1973.
Provenance Xavier Fourcade, Inc., New York Robert Cochran, Oklahoma City (acquired from the above in 1988) Manny Silverman Gallery, Los Angeles (acquired from the above in 2001) Private Collection, USA Edward Tyler Nahem Gallery, New York Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2006 Exhibited Indianapolis Museum of Art; Cincinnati, Contemporary Arts Center and Taft Museum, Painting and Sculpture Today , 22 May – 14 July 1974 New York, Xavier Fourcade, Inc., Large-Scale Paintings/Small Scale Sculpture, 18 April - 3 June 1978 San Francisco, Gallery Paule Anglim, Joan Mitchell , 13 November – 22 December 1979 New York, Xavier Fourcade, Inc., Paintings: de Kooning, Heizer, Mitchell, Murphy, Palermo, Twombly, Smith , 19 June – 19 September 1987 Literature Thomas Albright, 'The Mild-Mannered Painter', San Francisco Chronicle , 24 November 1979, p. 35 Frank Cebulski, 'Joan Mitchell's Projective Vision', Artweek , 15 December 1979, p. 6 Catalogue Essay Joan Mitchell’s paintings are like visual transcriptions of nature. They show the artist’s ongoing fascination with landscape and natural forces, albeit using a distinctly singular abstract language. Writing about her works at this time, the artist remarks ‘light is something very special. It has nothing to do with white. Either you see it or you don’t’ (Joan Mitchell quoted in, The Paintings of Joan Mitchell , exh. cat., Whitney Museum of Art, New York; Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham; Modern Art Museum, Fort Worth; Phillips Collection, Washington, 2002, p. 35); in this perspective, paintings like Perch and Twirl take on a solar dimension. Executed in 1973, Perch and Twirl nonetheless contains within its margins a number of dialectical oscillations. It is at once structured and free-flowing, joyful and solemn, spatially restricted and expansive. Bisected at the middle, dispersing on both sides bright blocks of purple, green, and orange, the painting’s inherent neatness breaks at the emergence of untamed drips, visibly paving their own way at the bottom-left margin of the canvas. Though abstract, Perch and Twirl represents precisely what its title announces: a position and a movement, one static, one vibrant. The top half of the painting illustrates the stillness of the former constitutive term –tempered blocks keeping their peace– while frenetic gestures below signal a swirving dance, an incessant twirl. Friends of the artist observed a similar pattern within Mitchell herself. The American artist’s literary background –her mother was a poet, her husband an editor, her close friend was Frank O’Hara– clashes with her impulsive nature, her tendency to swear, her internal agitation. Mitchell, like her paintings, was gracefulness surrounded by rage, or rage enveloped by gracefulness. With such meditations, an artist like Carol Rama comes to mind. Rama, born in Turin just a few years before Mitchell, equally used light tones and smooth lines to convey turmoil. Like a flame incarnate, the Italian-artist used to say ‘It’s mainly anger inside of me’ – an exclamation reminiscent of Mitchell’s bold gesture, when, labeled a woman-artist at a dinner party, she interrupted the conversation with a swift exit. Yet while Mitchell deplored forced dichotomies and generously expressed the subjects of her discontent, she used her ‘troubled fury […] as if it were nothing but a tool’ (Peter Schjeldahl, ‘Tough Love: Resurrecting Joan Mitchell’, The New Yorker , July 2002, online). The remainder of her energy –the more significant part– flowed with ease and materialised with delicacy. Perch and Twirl , as a standalone painting, came immediately after the artist’s first major solo exhibition at the Everson Museum of Art entitled My Five Years in the Country , 1972, and shortly before a smaller eponymous show at the Whitney in 1974. The painting brims with traits that are characteristic of Mitchell’s oeuvre, and shines with the confidence she happily acquired around those years, as an already widely
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