ADOLPH GOTTLIEB (1903-1974) Wall, 1968 (This work is number three from an edition of six.)

This lot has been removed from the website, please contact customer services for more information

Lot 9
Wall, 1968

Sold for US$ 87,500 inc. premium
Wall, 1968

incised 'A Gottlieb 1968 #3/6' (on one side)
painted aluminum

41 1/2 x 25 x 27 1/2 in.
105.4 x 63.5 x 69.9 cm

This work is number three from an edition of six.


  • Provenance
    Springs Improvement Society, East Hampton, New York (acquired directly from the artist).
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1972.

    New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Painting and Sculpture: 1940-1970, 9 October 1969-8 February 1970 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated in color, p. 78).
    New York, Smithsonian Institution, Cooper-Hewitt Museum, Smithsonian, 11 September 1979-6 January 1980 (another from the edition exhibited).
    Segovia, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Esteban Vicente, Adolph Gottlieb: Escultor, 8 June-3 September 2006, no. 2 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated pp. 50 and 168, illustrated in color, p. 98); maquette for the work, no. 18 (illustrated in color, p. 114). This exhibition later traveled to Palma de Mallorca, Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró a Mallorca, 15 September-10 December 2006.
    Akron, Akron Art Museum, Adolph Gottlieb: Sculptor, 27 October 2012-17 February 2013 (another from the edition exhibited). This exhibition later traveled to Tulsa, Philbrook Museum, 14 June-25 August 2013 and Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Art Museum, 21 September 2013-5 January 2014.

    S. B. Conroy, "Smithsonian Sampler is Seen in New York", in Smithsonian, Washington, D. C., 1979 (another from the edition illustrated in color, p. 135).

    The authenticity of the present work has been confirmed by the Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation, and is recorded under catalogue no. 6831.

    As a member of the first generation of Abstract Expressionists, Adolph Gottlieb grew to prominence exploring the signs, symbols, and traditional constructs of painting, a challenge he took upon himself alongside fellow artists Barnett Newman, David Smith and Mark Rothko. Created in 1968, Wall, is one of only 42 sculptures ever produced by the artist, a remarkable work that embodies his investigation of abstraction and visual language, redefining how we interpret artistic form, space, and perspective. Utilizing the power and vibrancy of color and line, Gottlieb explored the meaning and magnitude of signs, signifiers, and shapes, ultimately leading to his Pictographic series of works that were characterized by idiosyncratic usage of abstract visuals inspired by the Automatism and Dada practices then popular in Europe.

    By the end of the 1940s, Gottlieb began to shy away from Primitivist influences and refocused his palette and viewpoint back onto nature. Throughout the 1950s, Gottlieb's paintings explored the traditional concept of the landscape – with a horizontal line splicing the canvas into celestial and terrestrial expanses – one more active than the other, whose existence is predicated on the sheer presence of the other. Described as his Burst pictures, Gottlieb's canvases depicted sun-like discs floating above thick black tumbleweed-like growths. The contrast of straight and curved, blunt and blended, are made ever more so acute simply in their juxtaposition, reflecting and highlighting their opposing aspects.

    "Certain people always say we should go back to nature. I notice they never say we should go forward to nature. It seems to me they are more concerned that we should go back, than about nature. If the models we use are the apparitions seen in a dream, or the recollection of our pre-historic past, is this less part of nature or realism, than a cow in a field? I think not. The role of the artist, of course, has always been that of image-maker. Different times require different images. Today when our aspirations have been reduced to a desperate attempt to escape from evil, and times are out of joint, our obsessive, subterranean and pictographic images are the expression of the neurosis which is our reality. To my mind certain so-called abstraction is not abstraction at all. On the contrary, it is the realism of our time."1

    These works came to embody an ongoing theme for Gottlieb - one that harkens back to the Surrealist experiments from his early career, which was to ask and investigate the image, rather than simply accept what is being presented – creating a personal interpretation and experience that is both individualized and uniquely collective.

    By 1960, Gottlieb had wholeheartedly devoted himself to exploring the boundaries of his imaginary landscapes and Burst motifs. His goal was a distillation of simple, albeit abstract forms. In 1967, Gottlieb fully immersed himself within his practice in preparation for his retrospective coordinated by The Whitney Museum of American Art and The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. This collaborative exhibition was the first and only of its kind for the two museums, filling both cultural capitals with his works simultaneously. Continuing to play with the mutability of depth and space, and universality of line and color, Gottlieb moved away from the flat canvas and began making small cardboard maquettes that he would then manufacture out of painted, welded aluminum. For Gottlieb, these approachable structures truly challenged the separation between sculpture and painting, a pursuit which his friend and fellow artist David Smith was also undertaking. Unlike Smith, however, Gottlieb felt color was paramount to understanding and relating to his artistic expression and therefore relied on other characteristics of his medium, particularly its smooth surface and sheer mass to fully express his ideology. As such, his sculptures, like his canvases, transformed into "a vehicle for the expression of feeling... I feel a necessity for making the particular colors that I use, or the particular shapes, carry the burden of everything that I want to express, and all has to be concentrated within these few elements."2The elements of his paintings – those which created a horizon line in empty space – now came to exist in three dimensions.

    With its burnt crimson horizontal plane notched with slivers of deep black, Wall transforms the space around it into a desert-like scene at sunrise, with its yellow disc hovering above the horizon line. Gottlieb's sculptures offer a rare view into and an extension of the artist's painterly practice, exploring how color codependently exists line and shape, as well revealing his ever-constant push to redefine the painterly plane.

    1. A. Gottlieb, quoted in Tiger's Eye, New York, vol. 1, no. 2, December 1947, p. 43, reproduced in C. Harrison and P. Wood (eds.), Art in Theory 1900-2000: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, 2004, p. 573.
    2. A. Gottlieb, quoted in M. Friedman, "Interview with Adolph", East Hampton, 1962.
ADOLPH GOTTLIEB (1903-1974) Wall, 1968 (This work is number three from an edition of six.)
ADOLPH GOTTLIEB (1903-1974) Wall, 1968 (This work is number three from an edition of six.)
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations


If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories excluding Arms & Armor, Coins and Medals, Motor Cars, Motorcycles, Wine & Whisky

27.5% on the first $12,500 of the hammer price;
25% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of $12,500 up to and including $600,000;
20% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of $600,000 up to and including $6,000,000;
and 14.5% of the hammer price of any amounts in excess of $6,000,000.

Payment Notices

Payment for purchases may be made in or by (a) cash, (b) cashier's check or money order, (c) personal check with approved credit drawn on a U.S. bank, (d) wire transfer or other immediate bank transfer, or (e) Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover credit, charge or debit card. Please note that the amount of cash notes and cash equivalents that can be accepted from a given purchaser may be limited.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licenses please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.