not flat, and there is a balance of form to the present work that forces the viewer to observe it head on. The painting’s altar-like character has an impactful unmitigated frontality and symmetry, as Rothko liberated swathes of color and allowed them to float. The monumentality of this canvas and its overwhelming effect on the viewer solidify Rothko as one of the greatest painters of his generation and of the 20th century. Orange, Red, Yellow has a refined sense of balance and an astounding blend of colors. Confronting the painting is an intimate and emotional experience, heavy with a sense of human passion. In the present work Rothko masterfully encompasses the viewer in a larger-than-life canvas that is both aesthetically direct and spiritually powerful.
Another cornerstone of the May sale is Robert Rauschenberg’s colored slkscreen painting, Overdrive, 1963 (pictured here, est. $10/15 million). Beginning with his legendary Combine Paintings of the late 1950s, which incorporated found objects and expressionistic paint handling, Rauschenberg’s early works embraced the unseen detritus of the contemporary experience, transferring the material world into his art through a seemingly endless stream of restless experimentation. The use of diverse techniques and materials increasingly presented themselves as the subject of his art. Following the combine paintings, Rauchenberg’s next formidable innovation occurred in 1962, when he discovered the photo-silkscreen process. For Rauschenberg, silkscreen would prove the ideal means to expand the conceptual and aesthetic concerns of his earlier works through a pioneering new dialogue of materials and techniques. In the elkscreen paintings such as Overdrive, Rauschenberg now collaged images rather than three-dimensional objects. In the case of this work, the sights and sounds of New York City are conveyed in shifting images of street signs, stop signs, the Statue of Liberty and the birds of the cityscape.
In 1981-1982, Jean-Michel Basquiat emerged as an artist of note, soon meeting and collaborating with Andy Warhol and enjoying the critical patronage of New York dealer Annina Nosei. One of three works of a similar title painted in the basement of Nosei’s gallery, Untitled (Prophet I), 1981-82 (pictured here, est. $9/12 million), is believed to be the only surviving example – the others having been destroyed. The work epitomizes Basquiat’s natural talent for a selective appropriation of emotive gestures, calligraphic signs, and assemblage in a vocabulary heavily influenced by Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Cy Twombly, and Robert Rauschenberg. Notwithstanding Basquiat’s responsive disposition towards earlier pictorial traditions, Basquiat’s oeuvre is a visual solution to the multicultural milieu he inhabited. His neo-Primitive
frontal figure in Untitled (Prophet I), often seen as a self-portrait, references his deep interest in all forms of art history, including African and Tribal cultures, conveyed in the frenetic style and calligraphic arcs he absorbed from his experience painting on the city streets. In his short life, Basquiat’s paintings such as Untitled (Prophet I) personified the merging of youth culture, excess, art buying and self-destruction of 1980s New York.
Highlighting the offering of works by Andy Warhol is his late canvas,