Dec 15, 2015 - Sale 2402

Sale 2402 - Lot 125

Price Realized: $ 143,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 60,000 - $ 90,000
HUGHIE LEE-SMITH (1915 - 1999)

Oil on linen canvas, 1990. 1168x1016 mm; 46x40 inches. Signed in oil, lower right.

Provenance: estate of the artist; thence by descent to the current owner.

Exhibited: New Paintings, June Kelly Gallery, New York, October 5 - November 5, 1991, with the label on the frame back.

Performers is a significant later work by the artist, and the largest painting yet by Hughie Lee-Smith to be offered at auction. The evocative painting demonstrates Lee-Smith's consistent exploration of narrative and identity in a 1990s series of paintings with figures on stage or in a theatre. In 1988, Lee-Smith had his first and only retrospective at the New Jersey State Museumin Trenton. On large canvases, his new body of work depicts the mood or space between young actors, perfomers or dancers. They appear in a bright or even sun-lit settings that are still very much a part of Lee-Smith world - a staged and spare setting with a surreal or metaphysical atmosphere.

These imagined scenes recall Lee-Smith's early experiences of dance and theatre while working at the Playhouse Settlement (named Karamu House in 1941) during the WPA period in Cleveland. Lee-Smith taught art at Karamu House in the late 1930s in return for the full scholarship to the Cleveland School of Art (now the Art Institute of Cleveland) that the Gilpin Players awarded him in 1935. Inspired by the Gilpin Players, a black acting troupe, Lee-Smith also founded an inter-racial modern dance troupe there.