Swann Galleries African American Art April 6 with Work by Ernie Barnes and more

Above: Hughie Lee-Smith, The Ribbon, oil on canvas, circa 1960. Estimate $120,000 to $180,000. 

The spring offering of African American Art will take place on Thursday, April 6, featuring a broad range of scarce and significant art from the Harlem Renaissance to the Post-War and Contemporary.  

Ernie Barnes, Daddy, acrylic on cotton canvas, 1973. Estimate $250,000 to $350,000. 

            Ernie Barnes headlines the sale with Daddy, circa 1970. The painting, which depicts a joyful scene of a father with his son perched upon his shoulders, is an important oil-on-canvas work that captures the artist’s expressive figuration of the 1970s that often displayed moments of everyday life in action ($250,000-350,000). Additional figurative works include Hughie Lee-Smith’s beautiful The Ribbon, circa 1960—a quintessential mid-career oil painting showcasing his unique vision of a modern, existential landscape with Surrealist undertones ($120,000-180,000), as well as one of Lee-Smith’s few known nude works with Nude, oil on board, 1949 ($30,000-40,000). A beautiful example of Eldzier Cortor’s late career oil painting with Trilogy No. I, oil on canvas, 2014 ($35,000-50,000), and Emma Amos’ Brown Sack Paper, pastel and acrylic on paper, circa 1982, which explores the “brown paper bag test”—the colorist discriminatory practice of comparing skin tone to the color of a brown paper bag ($30,000-40,000)—also feature.  

            Compounding on the recent auction success at Swann, the sale will feature two circa-2000 tooled-leather paintings by Winfred Rembert—Doll’s Head Baseball ($120,000-180,000) and Jeff’s Pool Room ($100,000-150,000). Born and raised in Cuthbert, Georgia, Rembert lived and worked as an artist in New Haven, CT. His unique artwork displays memories of his youth; the rich color scenes can be found in his 2021 Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, Chasing Me to My Grave: An Artist’s Memoir of the Jim Crow South. 

Winfred Rembert, Doll’s Head Baseball, dye on carved & tooled leather, circa 2006. Estimate  

            The post-war period is led by a significant, six-foot 1971 acrylic-on-canvas painting by Kenneth Victor Young ($100,000-$150,000). With its atmospheric and enigmatic floating orbs, this large canvas is an excellent example of Young’s color field abstractions. Additional works of note include Norman Lewis’ Untitled (Birds), oil on canvas, circa 1951-52, a striking example of Lewis’ works of the 1950s that reflect his urban surroundings and in which birds were heavily featured as the subject ($150,000-250,000); Romare Bearden’s Wine Star, oil on canvas, 1959, an example of Bearden’s period of abstract color field painting of the late 1950s which was influenced by non-Western intuitive approaches to imagery ($80,000-120,000);and a 1956 gouache-on-board work in pinks, purples and blues by Beauford Delaney which was created during his first Paris period of abstraction ($35,000-50,000).  

            The auction showcases two exciting groups of politically and socially conscious artists from the early 1970s with a run of works by Chicago AfriCOBRA artists, and others of the Black Arts Movement, and a collection of works by Los Angeles artists from the estate of Naomi Caryl Hirshhorn. AfriCOBRA artists include paintings and scarce screenprints by Wadsworth Jarrell, Barbara Jones-Hogu, Cliff Joseph, Charles Searles and Nelson Stevens. Selections from the Naomi Caryl Hrishhorn Collection include paintings and collages by Suzanne Jackson, Gloria Bohanon, Dan Concholar and scarce prints by Samella Lewis. 

            The Contemporary selection features two scarce multiples—Untitled (Man), woodcut, 2017, by Kerry James Marshall ($30,000-40,000), and Baby Sleep, pigment print, 2009, by Deana Lawson ($20,000-30,000). Further highlights include Resting, glass, silver and digital print, 2016, by Hank Willis Thomas ($20,000-30,000), Miriam Makeba, quilt with appliqué, 2019, by Michael A. Cummings ($15,000-25,000), and Water Ice Stand, acrylic on canvas, circa 1998, by Columbus P. Knox ($10,000-15,000). 

            Previewing will be by appointment only. Live online bidding platforms will be the Swann Galleries App, Invaluable, and Live Auctioneers. The complete catalogue and bidding information is available at www.swanngalleries.com and the Swann Galleries App.   

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