KLEIN|WARHOL FIRE AND OXIDATION PAINTINGS TO LAUNCH SKARSTEDT’S NEW CHELSEA (NEW YORK) GALLERY

Skarstedt Gallery (New York – Upper East Side and London) announces the opening on Thursday, May 8, 2014, of a new space in New York in the heart of Chelsea, in addition to its two existing locations on New York’s Upper East Side and in London. The new gallery at 550 West 21st Street comprises over 6,000 square feet, occupying an entire freestanding building, designed by Selldorf Architects, a renowned New York-based firm with particular expertise in cultural and art-related projects. The additional gallery space enables Skarstedt to expand on its core program of museum-quality, historically researched exhibitions from modern and contemporary masters. The inaugural exhibition at the Chelsea gallery will present the pairing of Fire Paintings by Yves Klein and Oxidation Paintings by Andy Warhol, two major bodies of work by canonical 20th Century artists and fundamental to the history of abstraction, never before exhibited together. The exhibition will be on view from May 8 through June 21, 2014.

In the spring of 1961, access to a destructive testing laboratory in France, led Klein to one of his most innovative and, quite literally, explosive, bodies of work, the Fire Paintings. Using the bodies of young women as a mask (he had them covered in flame retardant) and transferring their nubile forms, Klein used a blowtorch to “burn” abstracted forms onto receiving paper. Klein’s technique bears striking similarity to the photographic technique of a heliograph, but Klein used flame, rather than light, to create shapes and forms. Intensely haunting and ethereal, the Fire Paintings exemplify what Klein referred to as “dangerous paintings,” that which jeopardized him in the process of his art making.

According to art historians, “the action of ‘burning’ a figure onto the paper receiver is innately photographic – not only is there strong similarities in the sense that an energy(light in the case of photography) used to darken or create a figure in the substrate – but the masking technique (like ‘dodging’ in the darkroom) functions in an identical fashion. The net result isn’t at all unlike a ‘heliograph’, or ‘light painting’.”

A decade later, Warhol did his own creative experiments with scientific process, but instead chose urine and metallic paints as the catalysts. For the Oxidations (1977-78), Warhol created brilliant, lavishly textured surfaces of gold and green, fashioning the “physical presence” he desired while satirizing the physical act of painting privileged by his forefathers, the Abstract Expressionists. This series marks an important point of departure for Warhol, being his first foray into abstraction, and disclosing his intrigue with the Abstract Expressionist painters who had dominated the New York art scene in the 1950s, during his early career.

We have an on-going commitment to mounting key historical exhibitions,” says Per Skarstedt, “and I’m delighted to open this new gallery space in Chelsea with an exhibition of incredible works by these quintessential modern masters.” Skarstedt continues, “This approach suits the collaborative way we have always worked with artists and their estates.”

The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, with an essay by Cary Levine.