ALFRED LESLIE (B. 1927) Four Panel Green-Big Green, 1956-57

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Lot 23W
(B. 1927)
Four Panel Green-Big Green, 1956-57
Sold for US$ 237,500 inc. premium

Post-War & Contemporary Art

15 Nov 2017, 17:00 EST

New York

Lot Details
ALFRED LESLIE (B. 1927) Four Panel Green-Big Green, 1956-57 ALFRED LESLIE (B. 1927) Four Panel Green-Big Green, 1956-57 ALFRED LESLIE (B. 1927) Four Panel Green-Big Green, 1956-57 ALFRED LESLIE (B. 1927) Four Panel Green-Big Green, 1956-57 ALFRED LESLIE (B. 1927) Four Panel Green-Big Green, 1956-57
Four Panel Green-Big Green, 1956-57

oil on canvas

144 x 166 in.
365.8 x 421.6 cm


  • Provenance
    Martha Jackson Gallery, New York.
    Adler Gallery, New York.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner.

    Newport Beach, Newport Harbor Art Museum, Action Precision: The New Direction in New York, 1955-1960, 28 June-9 September 1984, no. 27 (illustrated in color, p. 107). This exhibition later traveled to Worcester, Worcester Art Museum, 3 October-25 November 1984; New York, Grey Art Gallery, New York University, 15 January-23 February 1985; Cincinnati, Contemporary Arts Center, 14 March-27 April 1985; Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 14 September-3 November 1985 and Austin, Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery, University of Texas at Austin, 12 January-23 February 1986.
    New York, Allan Stone Gallery, Alfred Leslie 1951-1962: Expressing the Zeitgeist, 16 October-22 December 2004, no. 7 (illustrated in color, p. 13).
    New York, Allan Stone Projects, Alfred Leslie: Abstraction 1951-1962, 29 October-24 December 2015 (illustrated in color, p. 14).

    Painters and Poets, New York, Tibor de Nagy Gallery, 2011 (illustrated in color, p. 34).
    A. Worth, "Octopussarianism: Ten Alfred Leslie Years", in The Sienese Shredder, issue no. 2, 2008.

    Alfred Leslie's Four Panel Green – Big Green is a poignant and dynamic example of the artist's signature large-scale abstractions. Executed in 1956-57, Four Panel Green – Big Green presents a figural engagement with the dialectic - impetuous in its undefined lines and brazenly intricate in its construction. Brimming with fervor and raw energy, Four Panel Green – Big Green is an exercise in exuberance, a true testament to Leslie's tactile explorations of depth and painterly communication within the canon of post-war American art.

    In the 1950s, Leslie emerged as a prominent young figure in the New York art scene, and together with Michael Goldberg and Norman Bluhm, he became a formidable member of the second wave of Abstract Expressionists. An early champion of the avant-garde, Leslie's trademark arrangement of uniquely complex and layered swaths of paint alongside one another can be seen as a stylistic complement to his cultural interests outside the field of painting, which included experimental film work and Polaroid photography.

    Simultaneously disruptive and emotive, Four Panel Green – Big Green reflects a mature expression of fluid architecture, reinforced by the intercrossing vertical and horizontal structures. The stripes' soft painterly outlines imbue the work with a gestural accord despite its ultimate rejection of a formulaic structure, the work itself straddling the line between ambiguity and closure. Leslie's overpainted, alternating parallel strokes push through and recede from one another in a way that is both harmonious and cataclysmic, suspending the viewer in a rapture further emphasized by the work's monumentality. Filling the canvas with rigorous expressions of color and force, Leslie boldly deviates from the more placid color field compositions of similarly inspired abstract artists, while conjuring an undeniable aggression and vivacity that places him squarely at the forefront of the aptly named group of "Action Painters." Commenting on his refusal to adhere to one specific genre, Leslie states, "Subverting expectations has always been integral to my work."1

    Four Panel Green - Big Green is arresting, both in its sheer size and variation of activity. Forest green parallel bands practice a content rhythm against the current of the artist's loaded brushwork in the adjoining panels. The textured surface of the four-paneled work hums with tension and vigor: drawn-out, shadowy brushstrokes appose shorter, more staccato movements in a complete departure from the absoluteness of minimalist painting. Nebulous, atmospheric tones are accentuated by emphatic slashes of the artist's hand in every direction, with paint splatters trailing boldly delineated brushstrokes as if they were shooting stars.

    Four Panel Green – Big Green is a meditation on stylistic conformity and spatial illusions, as the four separate canvases appear to create one seamless visage. The four individual panels stand as veritable and full compositions in their own right, together recalling vestiges of the artist's assemblages and collages. The physicality of the present work is almost sculptural in form, with panels progressing into and diverging from one another, the continuing bands of color practicing a rhythmic motion in their repetitive parallel strokes. In a sense, the work is highly vexing, its bisecting planar lines forcing the consumption of certain stripes earlier than others, thereby rejecting a traditional visual literacy. Each effusive brushstroke projects energy into the adjoining canvas, magnifying its extension off the wall and into the viewer's physical space.

    Renowned art dealer Allan Stone, whose illustrious collection previously included the present work, spoke highly of Leslie's innate gift for abstraction, noting, "Alfred Leslie's work has an indisputable signature: the architecture, the wielding of the loaded brush, and the consistently present double vertical bands. Whether it is a large oil on canvas or a miniature collage, Leslie's work is immediately identifiable. Leslie has the ability to impart scale much like Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline. His small works have great scale and his large works project an even grander sense of scale. This combined with Leslie's color sense creates a body of work that epitomizes the power and dynamic of postwar American abstract painting."2

    Coinciding with the creation of Four Panel Green – Big Green, Leslie exhibited for the first time at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1957, an event which soon gave rise to the artist's prominence on an international stage. Today, examples of Leslie's figurative abstraction reside in the permanent collections of prestigious institutions such as The Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Conceived at the pinnacle of his career, Leslie's Four Panel Green – Big Green is a work emotionally charged with the richness of human experience, whether anarchic or at peace.

    1. A. Leslie interview with J. E. Stein, "Alfred Leslie: An Interview", in Art in America, January 2009.
    2. A. Stone, "Alfred Leslie: Painter of the Loaded Brush", in Alfred Leslie 1951-1962: Expressing the Zeitgeist, exh. cat., New York, Allan Stone Gallery, 2004, p. 4.
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