Oct 08, 2009 - Sale 2189

Sale 2189 - Lot 67

Price Realized: $ 288,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 175,000 - $ 200,000
Homage to My Young Black Sisters.

Red cedar, with painted carved details, 1968. 17250x305x305 mm; 68x12x12 inches. Incised initials, lower right at the base.

Provenance: the artist, Cuernavaca, Mexico; private collection, New York; Charles D. Storer, New York; private collection, New York.

Exhibited: Cuarto Bienal Nacional de Escultura, (Fourth National Sculpture Biennial), Galeria de Exposiciones Temporales, Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City, Mexico, 1969; Elizabeth Catlett, Prints and Sculpture, the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, September 26, 1971 - January 9, 1972; Elizabeth Catlett Sculpture: A Fifty Year Retrospective, the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, NY, February 8 - June 7, 1998; Blaffer Gallery, University of Houston, Houston, TX, October 23 - December 20, 1999; Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD, January 27 - April 11, 1999; Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City, Mexico, May 20 - August 1, 1999; Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta, GA, September 13 - November 12, 1999; For My People: The Art of Elizabeth Catlett, The Harold B. Lemmerman Gallery, New Jersey City University, Jersey City, NJ, April 3 - May, 2006.

Illustrated: Harry B. Henderson, Jr., and Romare Bearden. A History of African-American Artists: From 1982 to the Present. New York: Pantheon Books, 1993, p. 420; Melanie Ann Herzog. Elizabeth Catlett: American Artist in Mexico. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 2005. fig. 84, p. 141; Lucinda Gedeon. Elizabeth Catlett Sculpture: A Fifty Year Retrospective, Purchase, NY: the Neuberger Museum of Art, State University of New York, 1998, p. 60; Sharon Patton. African-American Art, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998, p. 205; Midor Yoshimoto, ed. For My People: The Art of Elizabeth Catlett. Jersey City, NJ: New Jersey City University, plate 27, p. 41.

This important wood sculpture by Elizabeth Catlett, a symbol of the Civil Rights movement, is the first life-size work of the artist to come to auction. It is one of the last monumental works by Elizabeth Catlett still in private hands.

This work's importance is reflected in its extensive exhibition and publication history. Art historian and Catlett scholar Melanie Ann Herzog devotes an entire section to this sculpture in her Elizabeth Catlett: An American Artist in Mexico. In "Homage to My Young Black Sisters: Black Nationalism in Sculpture," Herzog writes that this work "has become an icon of this period" and describes Catlett's incorporating overt political subjects and symbolism with further experimentation of form. In Homage to My Young Black Sisters, Catlett boldly bisects the abstracted, dynamic female shape with a central oval space, painted black. Catlett reinforces the message of upward movement with both the powerful raised right arm and clenched fist, and more unusually, with the head turned almost completely upward.

Elizabeth Catlett was living in Mexico City when the raised, clenched fist was immortalized by the sprinters John Carlos and Tommie Smith in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. When both athletes made this daring protest with black leather gloves on the medal podium, they created an international symbol for the Civil Rights struggle seen by a world-wide television audience. In the same year, Catlett also created Black Unity, the double-sided carved mahogany sculpture in which two joined heads are combined with a clenched fist.