LA Modern Auctions announces highlights of the 'Modern & Contemporary Art' sale

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LA Modern Auctions announces highlights of the 'Modern & Contemporary Art' sale
Billy Al Bengston (1934–2022), I Tatti, 1961. Oil and lacquer on board, 14 h × 14 w in (36 × 36 cm). Estimate: $28,000–38,000.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- LA Modern Auctions will present its Modern & Contemporary Art on Wednesday, February 22nd, 2023. This tightly curated auction brings an exemplary selection of paintings, drawings, and sculpture to the market, with a special emphasis on post-war Californian artists.

Highlights include paintings from John Baldessari, Billy Al Bengston, Brian Calvin, and Paul Wonner, Verifax collages by Wallace Berman, Ed Ruscha’s Made in California, and sculpture from George Rickey, Ken Price, George Herms, Tony Berlant, Vasa, and Loló Soldevilla.

Among the remarkable works on offer is the early John Baldessari painting Sign for “Rothko and Albers” (est. $50,000-70,000). Painted in 1961, this oil on canvas work escaped Baldessari’s infamous 1970 Cremation Project, in which Baldessari and friends burned more than 100 of his paintings created between 1953 and 1966. Some canvases, including Sign for “Rothko and Albers”, were not reduced to ash and baked into cookies. As Baldessari himself told Christopher Knight, “Obviously there are some works that survived. Not a lot, I might add.” Notably, this surviving work was appraised by LAMA founder Peter Loughrey in a 2018 episode of Antiques Roadshow, in which the painting’s owner relayed its history as a work available to rent by the month from Art Center in La Jolla, California.

Another particular moment in California art history is represented by I Tatti (est. $28,000-38,000), a 1961 painting by Billy Al Bengston from the Collection of Michael and Dorothy Blankfort. In 1958, the Blankforts began their art collection with an earlier work of Billy Al Bengston’s that they purchased from Ferus Gallery. The couple would go on to grow their collection considerably and to become influential patrons of the arts, not least through their relationship with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). They were among the founding members of LACMA’s Modern and Contemporary Art Council, which Dorothy would chair from 1974 to 1976, and Michael served on the Board of Trustees from 1971 to 1982. Upon their deaths, the Blankforts donated much of their collection to LACMA, including works by Billy Al Bengston, as well as Yves Klein, Willem de Kooning, and Arshile Gorky.

Other notable works in the selection include Ed Ruscha’s 1971 Made in California (est. $60,000-80,000), an editioned work for which LAMA holds the current world record, as well as Brian Calvin's canvas Coatcheck (est. $40,000-60,000) and Paul Wonner’s 1998 Pink Tablecloth, Flowers, and Cheese (est. $50,000-70,000). Sculpture is led by the kinetic work Two Up, One Down by George Rickey (est. $25,000-35,000) and Ken Price’s geometric form Bolivar (est. $10,000-$15,000).

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