JOEL-PETER WITKIN (American, b. 1939) PENITENTE, NEW MEXICO signed, titled, dated and editioned...
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JOEL-PETER WITKIN (American, b. 1939) PENITENTE, NEW MEXICO signed, titled, dated and editioned...

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JOEL-PETER WITKIN (American, b. 1939) PENITENTE, NEW MEXICO signed, titled, dated and editioned...
JOEL-PETER WITKIN (American, b. 1939) PENITENTE, NEW MEXICO signed, titled, dated and editioned "Joel Peter Witkin, Penitente, N.M., 1983, 6/15" in pencil on verso gelatin silver print with velvet covered mat in artist's frame image: 14 1/2 x 15 in. (36.8 x 38.1 cm) mat: 23 1/4 x 23 1/4 in. (59.1 x 59.1 cm) frame: 29 x 29 x 2 in. (73.7 x 73.7 x 5.1 cm) 1982-1983 this print is number 6 from an edition of 15 PROVENANCE Christie's NEW YORK, October 29, 1987, Sale Number 6468, Lot 475 Private Collection, NEW YORK LITERATURE JOEL-PETER WITKIN: FORTY PHOTOGRAPHS, San Francisco, 1985, p. 23 (illustrated) JOEL-PETER WITKIN, Pasadena, California, 1985, n.p. (illustrated) JOEL-PETER WITKIN: CENTRO DE ARTE REINA SOFIA, Madrid, 1988, p. 93 (illustrated) Germano Celant, JOEL-PETER WITKIN, NEW YORK, 1995, pl. 29 (illustrated) Born to a Catholic mother and Jewish father who divorced due to "religious conflict," Witkin was raised by his mother in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Witkin's first visual memory is witnessing a gruesome car accident with his mother and siblings on their way to church when he was six years old. This event seems to have influenced how he approached his art. His work is not meant to simply shock the eyes, but also to represent all that is taboo and sacrilege. This work depicts the ritualistic Mexican penitents, who have themselves crucified at Easter to atone for their sins. Theirs is a "lower world" that "never comes out into the light, but is nevertheless a sign of another sacredness, the sort that spills over into the violence and cruelty of immolation. At the source it is a spiritual principle that suggests the image, which in Witkin must always take the form of the reintegration of society's dark monsters. The immersion into the darkness and...into the ecstasy of a penitent is marked by the eroticism of back-and-forth movement between life and death, which on the cross becomes transmutation and cosmic interchange" (Celant, p. 29). The piece also demonstrates Witkin's obsessive interest in the mask, as he believed "like the spirit and the flesh, the mask and the person tend to coincide and become confused" (Celant, p. 17). The man and the two monkeys are screaming, although the photograph is always silent. This is a device Witkin used often to represent pain, since he believed the silence of the medium of photography "made the screams all the louder past the eyes of the viewer to his brain" (Witkin, p. 58). Witkin's process is a very physical one, involving scratching into the negative and chemically controlling the development of his powerful imagery. His involvement in the presentation does not end after he steps out of the darkroom. Here, he has matted the image with deep purple velvet and placed it in an elaborate antique-looking frame, imitating how one might present an old painting of Christ on the cross.