Item Details

Original charcoal and gouache drawing of an old woman wearing a white head scarf, 9 ½ x 13 inches, on brown paper, inscribed “Your sincere friend Mina Loy", undated but circa 1949-1952. Mina LOY.

Original charcoal and gouache drawing of an old woman wearing a white head scarf, 9 ½ x 13 inches, on brown paper, inscribed “Your sincere friend Mina Loy", undated but circa 1949-1952.

In light of the fact that the drawing was done on a piece of scrap paper, as its edges indicate, and may well have been given to the subject, a woman Mina Loy met on the Bowery, the drawing is in very good condition. Framed and glazed. Although best known as one of the most important early modernist poets, Mina Loy was highly regarded as an artist. In drawings, paintings, collages, decorated lampshades, and relief constructions, she earned the admiration of Joseph Cornell, Marcel Duchamp, among many others. She attended art schools in London, Munich, and Paris and exhibited at some of the more famous art shows of the early 20th Century, including the 1905 Salon d'Automne in Paris, the 1914 Free Exhibition of International Futurists in Rome, the 1917 Independents' Exhibition in New York City, in addition to being shown later at the gallery of her son-in-law, Julien Levy, in New York. By the early 1950s, Loy was living in a small apartment in New York City, where her most ambitious art works, the assemblages and constructions based on her experiences and encounters with the down and out in the Bowery, were created.This drawing, which is undated, must have been done between 1949-1952, during the period when Loy was living in Irene Klempner’s communal boarding house in the Bowery, a period in which Loy’s intense interest in the life around her was engaged: “From Mina’s perspective, the bums represented her lifelong fear of “outcasting.” To most people they were human wreckage, indistinguishable in their grime and degradation, but in her eyes they were individuals with habits and histories. Within weeks of her move to Stanton Street, she had made friends with the regulars and introduced them to members of the household as “red” or “Whitey.” . . . she sketched them from her window and sent them on errands so that she could give them a quarter.” Loy began making assemblages using materials found on the streets of the Bowery, at the same time as she was writing poems such as “Hot Cross Bum”: “While writing “Hot Cross Bum,” Mina was constructing Bowery scenes with materials which, like her poetic images, were taken from the street. Like Picasso’s collages, Mina’s assemblages were incongruous couplings of commonplace objects, and like Duchamp’s ready-mades, they seemed to thumb their nose at middle-class culture. But unlike either of these innovative recyclers, Mina brought to her shabby materials an acute sense of the cost involved for those who searched the garbage cans: rather than passing as outsides, as they avant-garde had done, they actually lived at the bottom of the heap. . . . In these new works, she was reflecting on her own perspective, that of a person of higher status looking from her window at the derelicts below. But to understand her constructions, one had to see through her eyes. When she showed the bums in low relief, she mocked an artistic trend that made it unthinkable to treat subjects of such low status that they went “on relief.” And while her objects adopted the outside stance of the Salon des Refusés, her refuse was recombined not to assail artistic convention, as Duchamp had done, but to make it more responsive. As a name for these disturbing objects, she proposed “Refusees” – a punning blend of refuse, Refusés, and refugees, which summed up her long itinerary from West Hampstead to the Bowery.” – Carolyn Burke, Becoming Modern: The Life of Mina Loy (N. Y.: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1996), pp. 409-420. The touching inscription on this drawing suggests the possibility that it might have been given to the subject of the drawing, although we have no way of tracing provenance back to its original owner.

Price: $12,500.00

See all items by