Mar 14, 2024 - Sale 2662

Sale 2662 - Lot 129

Price Realized: $ 1,875
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 2,000 - $ 3,000
Untitled (Tread).

Collage on paper with letterpress mounted on wove paper and card stock, circa 1930. 97x78 mm; 4x3¼ inches. With the artist's estate ink stamp, lower right recto (and an additional lighter estate ink stamp upper left recto).

Provenance: Estate of the artist, New York; private collection, Chicago.

Another work from this series sold at Swann Auction Galleries, June 4, 2015, sale 2386, lot 73.

Stella (1877-1946) was among the first American artists to use collage as a modern art form. He created dozens of collages from bits of torn, dirty, shredded and wrinkled bits of paper, including a handful with impressions of tire treads, and other discarded materials. Only two of these were reproduced during his lifetime, in the autumn 1922 issue of The Little Review. It was only after a group of his collages were shown posthumously at Zabriskie Gallery, New York, in 1960 and 1961 that these works became known to a wider public. A Roberta Smith noted in her New York Times review of another exhibition of Stella collages, at Peter Freeman, New York, 2005, "Stella's love for New York is most famously exemplified by his extravagant renderings of the Brooklyn Bridge, those Futurist cascades of brittle forms that for some are the visual equivalent of fingernails on a blackboard. But his affection found a softer, more modern expression in the collages he made, starting in 1918 when the medium was barely a decade old.

These works are not unknown. Two appeared in the Museum of Modern Art's groundbreaking "Art of Assemblage" exhibition in 1961; there were 20 in the Whitney's 1994 retrospective of this artist's career. Still, the first large show in New York devoted exclusively to them in many years can rattle your notion of American art, from Stella's time to ours.

Inspired by the ready-mades of his friend Marcel Duchamp, Stella found the streets of New York to be literally paved with art, or at least fragments of it: bits of letters, labels and wrappers splashed with sooty water, crusted with dirt or printed with tire-tracks, as well as scraps of wallpaper, magazines, posters and even stucco. He became a collector and connoisseur of these readily available materials, backing each of his finds with heavy paper, and often signing them -- remarkable care for works that he never exhibited during his lifetime . . . These are among the most simultaneously abstract and real works by a 20th-century American artist. They are contemporary with Alfred Stieglitz's famous "Equivalents"--the luminous, semi-abstract photographs of night skies. Yet they presage postwar art of the real by Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, as well as the more abstract work of Ellsworth Kelly and Robert Ryman. They also relate to European artists of the same period, including Jean Dubuffet, Alberto Burri and the poster-tearing Affichistes."