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5 centímetros sobre la tierra
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About the object

Oil on canvas\nBeginning in the early fifties, Hans and Alice de Jong built a collection with the intention to enrich their lives by the creativity of art.  They befriended the artists whose work they acquired, inviting them to their homes and they focused on finding paintings, drawings and sculpture that carried fullness and warmth of life.  The end result is a uniquely personal collection wherein most pieces were purchased directly from the artists and each tells a distinct story. This establishes a sense of intimacy which is immediately discernible when viewing the work. A visitor to their homes in Hengelo, the Netherlands or Ascona, Switzerland, would immediately be impressed by the refined eyes that carefully chose each piece in this remarkable collection.\nThe Collection of Hans and Alice Jong will also be sold in New York, Contemporary Art sale (15 November 2006), New York, Latin American Sale (20 November 2006), Amsterdam, Modern and Contemporary art sale (6 December 2006) and London, Contemporary art sale (February 2007).\nLike the Mexican Diego Rivera (1886-1957) and the Uruguayan Joaquin Torres-García (1874-1949) who returned to their countries of origin in 1921 and 1937 respectively after successful sojourns in Europe—Wifredo Lam returned to his native Cuba in 1941 equipped with the language of the Parisian School and anxious to transform that idiom into his own personal style within the specific cultural and historical circumstances of the Americas. And, like Rivera and Torres-García, Lam ably absorbed the tenets of modernism, merging the creative experimentation and metamorphic power of Surrealism and the formal strategies of analytical and synthetic Cubism with the conceptual framework of Afro-Cuban imagery and its spiritual- and cultural-based practices.\nLam’s signature style—partly the result of his immersion into Surrealism—may be traced back to an early series of drawings titled Fata Morgana realized while in Marseilles in 1940.  These intimate ink drawings—many of which served as illustrations for Andre Breton’s poem of the same name—were inhabited by fantastical beings with horns, crescents, masks, and stars in which human and animal like forms are morphed in a manner that recall such mythological antecedents as the Minotuar and Centaur. 5 centímetros sobre la tierra (Five Centimeters Above the Earth) represents the maturation of this personal idiom in which Lam pared down his compositions reducing his palette to muted shades of brown, black, gray, and white occasionally infused with accents or brilliant planes of bright reds and ochres. Likewise Lam freed his figures from the landscape positioning them within bare, stage-like spaces in which he reintroduced the horizon line off-set by strong orthogonal lines. This theatrical-like space further underscores the sense of dislocation between the world of the spectator and the imaginary world created by Lam’s zoomorphic creatures. Perhaps the most ubiquitous of these, is Lam’s ever present “Femme-Cheval,” a hybrid figure comprised of female human and equine features. In this work, the “Femme-Cheval” appears in profile with her elongated snout, pointed ears, mane, and buttocks. But Lam further morphs this mythic creature with horns, a tubular appendage grasping a large knife, and wings. Discussing this work and others by Lam from this period, Lowery Stokes Sims observes that while images of “animals, fowl, and fish, which during the 1940s had appeared either as attributes of the Orishas, sacrificial offerings to them, or simply as animals, came to achieve a more political charge. Unexpectedly militaristic with their arrow-like protuberances, their spiked armor and dorsal grill-work—[in works such as] 5 centímetros sobre la tierra— these creatures seem less hapless sacrifices to an African deity than the embodiment of Cuban nationhood and pride. It is no surprise, then, that their creation coincided with one of the most contentious periods in pre-Revolutionary Cuba." [1]  Sims interpretation is further confirmed by the large knife at the bottom right-hand corner of the canvas—a symbolic invocation of Ogón, the warrior god.\n[1] Lowery Stokes Sims, “From Concept to Style: Lam and his Geography of the Marvelous,” in Lou Laurin-Lam, Wifredo Lam, Catalogue Raisonné of the Painted Work, Volume 1, 1923-1960 (Lausanne: Éditions Acatos, 1996), p. 151.
US
NY, US
US

creator

Wifredo Lam

dimensions

39 1/8 by 50 in.

exhibition

Caracas, Museo de Bellas Artes, Lam, May 8-22, 1955, n.n. Malmo (Sverige) Galerie Colibri, Wifredo Lam, September 2-18, 1955, n.n. Maracaibo, Centro de Bellas Artes, Wifredo Lam, oleos 37-39, obras recientes 56-57, gouaches, pastels, dibujos, litografías, grabados, collages, February 24-March 10, 1957, n.n. Arnhem, Gemeentemuseum Arnhem, oog in oog met hans en alice de jong, June 28-September 6, 1970, n.n. Lyngby, Sophienholm; Haarlem, Frans Halsmuseum, International Billedkunst: Alice og Hans de Jong's Samling, June-July 1971, no. 66

literature

Lou Laurin-Lam, Wifredo Lam, Catalogue Raisonné of the Painted Work, Volume 1, 1923-1960, Lausanne, Éditions Acatos, 1996, no. 55.24, p. 458, illustrated

provenance

Acquired directly from the artist (1955) Noma Copley, New York Hanover Gallery, London Acquired from the above by the present owner

consignmentDesignation

Property from the Hans and Alice de Jong Collection, Hengelo/Ascona


*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.

*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.


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