Mark Rothko and Herbert Ferber’s abstract expressionist paintings and sculptures join forces with American minimalist Dan Flavin and his luminous installations, as David Zwirner hosts New York exhibitions devoted to them, kicking off next week.
At Zwirner’s uptown gallery on East 69th Street, Herbert Ferber | Mark Rothko (Tuesday February 20 to Saturday April 14) is a show dedicated to the friendship between the two artists that lasted until Rothko’s death in 1970, with particular prominence given to works from the 1940s that involve surrealist-inspired forms. The New York School artists first met in 1947 and bonded over their art, political beliefs and a shared aesthetic. Over the years, they inevitably exchanged works of art – several of which are in the exhibition.
The 1940s were Rothko’s “decisive decade”, when he created dramatic, abstract figures in paintings such as Entombment I/The Entombment (1944) and Landscape (1945). These works were selected by Ferber for his personal collection, as was No 6 (1947), one of Rothko’s first “Multiform” abstractions. Rothko pieces on sale will range from $1m up to $6m.
New York-born Ferber, who died in 1991, was one of the few abstract expressionists working in three dimensions. During the 1940s, the sculptor and painter used lead and bronze to create contorted, dynamic sculptures, such as One to Another II (1946), which explores space and form with a dynamism shared by Rothko. Ferber’s oil-on-canvas works, such as Untitled (c1959) and Untitled (Moon Series) (1959), illustrate his passionate experimentation with colour and mass. His sculptures are priced from $55,000 to $200,000, drawings are in the $20,000 bracket and paintings range between $45,000 and $125,000.
Moving downtown to Zwirner’s gallery on West 20th Street in Chelsea, Dan Flavin: in Daylight or Cool White (from Wednesday February 21 until Saturday April 14) is an exhibition decidedly different in tone. Few artists can boast having explored a single medium, in this case Flavin’s signature fluorescent light tubes, as tenaciously and consistently as he did. Flavin began using them in the early 1960s with his breakthrough Icons series and quickly abandoned painting altogether, focusing on light works until his death in 1996.
“Dan Flavin’s use of commercially available fluorescent light fixtures in 1963 permanently changed how we understand sculpture and what we can call art,” says senior partner Kristine Bell. “Very few artists have left such an indelible mark on the history of art.”
Of the approximately 20 “situations” – as Flavin called his installations – on display, around half will be for sale and all use variations of white fluorescent light. Among the works will be The Diagonal of May 25, 1963 (1963) and The Nominal Three (to William of Ockham) (1963), a paean to the medieval theologian and philosopher that uses a system of six fluorescent lamps, installed in intervals of one, two and three vertical 8ft lamps.
Other highlights include Alternate Diagonals of March 2, 1964 (to Don Judd) (1964) and Untitled (to Helen Winkler) (1972), which incorporate different configurations of cool, warm and soft white light. Flavin works on sale are priced between $850,000 and $5m.