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Explore Sydney Contemporary

Tony Lewis, Untitled (And Valleys of Frustration and Failure), 2014

Tony Lewis

(American, b. 1986)

Untitled (… And Valleys of Frustration and Failure), 2014
pencil and graphite powder on comic book cutout
image: 5.5 by 4 cm.
frame: 50.8 by 47.6 cm.

Shane Campbell Gallery, Chicago
Private Collection, Europe
Private Collection, Europe

AUD $ 3,800

Payment over 10 months with Art Money available

ony Lewis, Untitled (And Valleys of Frustration and Failure), 2014

Key Points

  • The Calvin & Hobbes drawings are great examples of Lewis’ fascination with graphite and language, which are the cornerstones of this practice
  • Part of the series was exhibited at the Hirschhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden in Washington, which then acquired the works
  • The series was just recently featured in the new Phaidon publication Vitamin D3: Today’s Best in Contemporary Drawing
  • The works are priced in line with the primary gallery prices for the series
Calvin & Hobbs works in progress in Tony Lewis’ studio

In Context

Traditionally used as a preparatory medium for small studies, graphite has become Tony Lewis’ signature material and he has used it in drawings, sculptures and large-scale works on paper. His works have been featured in prestigious exhibitions such as the Whitney Biennale in New York, and despite his young age Lewis’ work has already entered the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, amongst others. Tony Lewis is represented by Blum & Poe in Los Angeles, New York and Tokyo, and Massimo de Carlo in London and Milan. 

“The relationship between language and drawing is the foundation of how I define drawing. I can’t write if I’m not drawing and I can’t draw if I’m not writing. They happen at the same time. So the way we understand images, the way we understand signs, for me is very integral to how to how a drawing is produced.”

– Tony Lewis

The artist’s series of small-scale graphite drawings on comic book cut outs continues his interest in language, which in this case is appropriated from the famous Calvin & Hobbes comic books that Tony Lewis read feverishly as a kid. By covering the images of the book in graphite and redacting the text in the speech balloons, the artist shifts the focus from the visual language to the spoken word, whilst highlighting passages that gain new significance when seen in isolation. Words that might have gotten lost in the bigger narrative appear confrontational (sissy) whilst other passages take on a dramatic and existentialist tone (valleys of frustration and failure). 

Tony Lewis in his studio

The artist’s use of appropriated language is not dissimilar to the dadaist poetry of Christan Tzara, who randomly selected fragments from newspapers, though Tony Lewis’ practice often addresses issues around race, power, language and communication that run throughout his oeuvre. The drawings are also an extension of the artist’s process-based practice which is centered around the unruly medium of graphite. 

In 2018, the Hirschhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden in Washington staged an exhibition of Tony Lewis’ Calvin & Hobbs works, an installation of 34 drawings titled Anthology 2014-2016, which was subsequently acquired by the museum.

Comparable works

Tony Lewis, Surface, 2014, Pencil, graphite powder, and correction tape on paper and transparency, 28 by 21.6 cm.
Hirschhorn Museum, Washington
Tony Lewis, Make His Mouth Bigger, Angrier, 2015, graphite powder and correction tape on paper, 7 by 5.8 cm.
Studio Museum, Harlem
Tony Lewis, P and R the People, 2014, pencil, graphite powder, and pressure-sensitive tape on four sheets of paper, 211.1 x 151.8 cm.
Museum of Modern Art, New York


Click to watch the video

The market

Despite his young age, Tony Lewis already has a strong and established market. Being represented by galleries in Los Angeles, London, Milan and Hong Kong, his market is also global in nature. The present work is priced in line with the primary market prices for works from the series.

Tony Lewis, Untitled (Sissy), 2016, pencil, graphite powder and correction tape on comic book cutout,
5.5 by 5.5 cm.
Sold for AUD 3,800
(May 2021)
Tony Lewis, To Join, 2018, graphite on comic book cutout, 6 by 4 cm.
Gallery price: USD 2,800 (AUD 3,800)
Massimo De Carlo, London
Tony Lewis, Oh No, 2017, graphite on comic book cutout, 6.4 by 6.4 cm.
Sold for USD 2,000 (AUD 2,700)
Hindman Auctions, December 2019

Tony Lewis featured in Vitamin D3: Today’s Best in Contemporary Drawing


Selected solo exhibitions
2020 Massimo de Carlo, Milan
2019 Blum & Poe, Los Angeles
2018 Hirschhorn Museum, Washington
2018 Massimo de Carlo, Hong Kong
2017 Shane Campbell Gallery, Chicago
2017 Rose Art Museum, Waltham
2017 Massimo de Carlo, London
2016 Marino Marini Museum, Florence
2015 Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland

Selected collections
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo
Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas
Hirschorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Washington
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Smithsonian Museum of African Art, Washington
Studio Museum Harlem, New York

Selected group exhibitions
2020 Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
2019 Alexander Berrgruen Gallery, New York
2018 Bowdoin College Museum, Brunswick
2018 Shane Campbell Gallery, Chicago
2017 Modern Institute, Glasgow
2017 Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia
2016 Bortolami Gallery, New York
2016 Galerie Lelong, New York
2016 Aspen Art Museum, Aspen
2016 HOME, Manchester
2015 Studio Museum Harlem, New York
2015 Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York
2015 Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco
2014 Whitney Biennale, New York
2014 Arsenal, Montreal

ILEANA at Explore Sydney Contemporary

Walead Beshty, Louise Bourgeois, Dorian Büchi, Michael Craig-Martin, Melissa Gordon, Richard Hamilton, Rachel Howard, Louise Lawler, Tony Lewis, Sol LeWitt, Tim Maguire, Takesada Matsutani, Edda Renouf, Bridget Riley, Peter Schuyff, Stansfield/Hooykaas, Wang Guangyi, Christopher Wool

Presented at Explore Sydney Contemporary (11-21 November 2021)

All artworks © the artist.