Edda Renouf

Autumn Sounds I, 1978-81

Cataloguing     Summary     Comparables     Essay     Market     Biography

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Edda Renouf, Autumn Sounds I, 1978-81

Edda Renouf

(American, b. 1943)

Autumn Sounds I, 1978-81
signed, titled and dated on the overlap
acrylic on linen, with threads removed
40.5 by 40.5 cm.

Galerie 1900-2000, Paris
Private Collection, Brussels

AUD $ 18,000

Payment over 10 months with Art Money available

Key Points

  • Edda Renouf’s work has been collected by over 75 museums around the world, with comparable paintings in many prestigious collections (see below)
  • She first exhibited with the legendary gallerists Yvon Lambert in Paris and Konrad Fischer in Düsseldorf in the early 1970s
  • Autumn Sounds I is a perfect example of her early work, executed around the same time as most of her works in museum collections (see below)
  • By manipulating the canvas threads, Renouf’s paintings highlight an often overlooked aspect of painting, namely its material support
  • Edda Renouf is a precursor to more recent feminist practices that use fabrics to comment on the male-dominated history of painting

Comparable works

Edda Renouf, Sound Piece, 1977
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Edda Renouf, Flight II, 1979-80
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Edda Renouf, New York Sound I, 1978
Centre Pompidou, Paris
Edda Renouf, This I, 1973
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Edda Renouf, Visible Sound I, 1978
Whitney Museum, New York
Edda Renouf, Wing Piece III, 1980
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

In Context

With over seventy-five museums around the world holding Edda Renouf’s work in their collections, one would assume she would be a relatively known figure – at least in the art world. Her impressive biography reads like that of many successful artists: born in Mexico City, she studied under the abstract expressionist painter Richard Pousette-Dart and attended a number of prestigious art institutions including the Académie Julian in Paris, the Academie der Bildende Künste in Munich, and obtained her Master of Fine Arts from Colombia University in New York. Her first solo exhibition in 1972 was with the legendary gallerist Yvon Lambert in Paris (who also showed Cy Twombly, Sol LeWitt, Donald Judd, Carl Andre, Lawrence Weiner, and Joseph Beuys), followed two years later by a show at the equally legendary Konrad Fischer Gallery in Dusseldorf (who showed many of Lambert’s artists, as well as Bruce Nauman, Robert Ryman, On Kawara and Robert Mangold). Renouf developed close friendships with famous collectors such as Herbert and Dorothy Vogel, to whom she was introduced by Richard Tuttle and whom she helped acquire works by Joseph Beuys. 

But much more impressive than her biography is Edda Renouf’s original oeuvre. Working within the visual language of minimalism, Renouf explored the material nature of painting by focussing on an aspect that has traditionally been overlooked: the canvas. Whereas most minimal artists focussed on the painted surface (Robert Ryman) or the shape of the canvas (Frank Stella), Edda Renouf turned towards the materiality of the canvas itself, bringing forward the inherent geometries of the fabric weave. 

“For me there is a language in the structure of the linen canvas which I would like to make visible. Since the early canvases and textiles of Mesopotamia, Egypt or the Copts there exists a language that draws its similarities from its structure – leading to a kind of archetypal imagery.”

Edda Renouf

Renouf was always drawn to textiles, and fondly recalls the linen curtain that covered the skylight above her bed in Mexico where she grew up. But her artistic interest in the material was particularly influenced by Paul Klee, who was obsessed with the textures of different fabrics and deliberately tried to make visible the fabric weave in his work. Renouf’s elaborate yet subtle process involved the removal of individual threads from the canvas, applying several layers of paint, and finally sanding them down again. This technique highlighted the areas where the threads had been removed, as the recesses were unaffected by the sandpaper. Moveover, it emphasised the inherent patterns within the canvas itself, as the paint would seep into its recesses whilst the protruding fabric was sanded down. 

Edda Renouf with Herbert and Dorothy Vogel

Edda Renouf with Dorothy and Herbert Vogel, New York, 1982

If Frank Stella’s black paintings had radically reduced formal compositions to a minimum, Renouf took this a step further by using compositions that were already there, hidden in the weave of the canvas. Like Robert Ryman she then emphasised the materiality of painting, but focussed on the infinite compositional possibilities already inherent in the fabric, without having to add any brushmarks. In this sense, Renouf almost treated the canvas as a ready-made object in which certain characteristics are highlighted through her physical interventions – revealing an aspect that she referred to in the above-mentioned quote as “a kind to archetypal imagery” which has been present in canvasses for centuries. This connects her work to postminimalist practices of artists such as Eva Hesse, which emphasised simple materials and the human element in a minimal aesthetic. 

Whilst Renouf’s original technique utilises the same materials as most paintings (paint and canvas), it is also decidedly unpainterly. The compositional elements in her work are all situated within the fabric of the support, not the paint. This makes Edda Renouf’s practice more closely related to the generations of female artists who rejected traditional oil painting and its patriarchal associations. Just as Eva Hesse and Rosemarie Trockel engaged with painting’s masculine history by turning towards fabrics, so Edda Renouf approaches the medium by altering the fabric rather than the paint.

Renouf’s material concerns with painting were matched with her immaterial interests in the form of time and music. Most of her paintings refer to this through their titles, as in the case of Autumn Sounds I. The ochre colour of the paint echoes the seasonal reference of the title, whilst the pattern of the removed canvas threads seem to resemble the rain falling down from the sky.

All of this makes Autumn Sounds I an outstanding work within the art-historical traditions of postminimalist practices and early feminist practices. Yet the work is equally a beautiful and subtle example of an artist whose oeuvre occupies a unique position in art history, but which has not been recognised to the full extend.

“Essential to my paintings and drawings is the revealing of an abstract structure and energy inherent to my materials, the linen canvas and cotton paper. In my paintings, after holding a stretched canvas up to the light, which allows me to see the movement of the weave, I am inspired to remove certain threads which in some works I also then reapply. I continue by priming the canvas and then apply several thin coats of acrylic paint. This is followed by a careful sanding of the surface that again makes visible the organic and geometric structures within the linen material. In my drawings I incise lines with an etching point to remove particles of paper before applying sometimes several layers of chalk or oil pastel. Breaking away from the traditional approach to linen and paper, which are usually used as grounds on which to paint an image, my working process reveals and uncovers the organic life and abstract energy within the materials.

In removing threads from the linen canvas and incising and scraping lines in the paper, various juxtapositions basic to the life of the art works become visible: for example, the positive areas of the ground versus the negative spaces created by the extraction of threads in my paintings or of particles of paper in the drawings; the contrast between the geometry of the stretcher bars I use for my paintings and the organic flexibility of the linen fiber of the canvas; the difference between the crisp scraped lines in my drawings versus the uneven more organic incised lines; or the contrast between the well defined lines created by removed and applied threads in my paintings versus the aleatory, cloud-like areas of color that have been sanded. I have defined the coming together of these juxtaposed contrasting qualities as analogous to the rational and irrational, that is, the Apollonian and Dionysian forces of life and existence.”
Edda Renouf

Edda Renouf installing her work at Galleria Ugo Ferranti, Rome, 1976

The market

Despite her historical position and incredible institutional representation, Edda Renouf’s prices are still low compared to her contemporaries (especially male artists). A similar sized early painting from Agnes Martin, Frank Stella or Robert Ryman would cost over USD 1 million, whilst Edda Renouf’s prices are still far below $100,000.

Autumn Sounds I is also attractively priced compared to recent auction results for work on paper, and compared to the primary prices for new works. Recent paintings at her London dealer Annely Juda have asking prices between the equivalent of AUD 28,500 – 48,000, significantly higher than the present work. Moreover, these recent works are not as historically signifcant as early works from the 1970s (most works in museum collections are from earlier dates).

Edda Renouf, High Frequency Drawing, 1977, chalk on incised paper,
51 by 51 cm.
Sold for: USD 9,3750 (AUD 12,900)
Sotheby’s New York, March 2019
Edda Renouf, Traces #3, 2012
acrylic on linen, threads removed,
51 by 51 cm.
Gallery price: GBP 15,600 (AUD 29,100)
(Annely Juda, London)
Edda Renouf, Threshold, 2014
acrylic on linen, threads removed,
150 by 150 cm.
Gallery price: GBP 26,200 (AUD 48,900)
(Annely Juda, London)


Selected solo exhibitions
2020 Barbara Mathes, New York
2017 Annely Juda, London
2015 Galerie 1900-2000, Paris
2006 New Art Gallery, Lichtfield
2004 Museum of Woman in Arts, Washington
2004 Joseph Helman, New York
1998 Galerie Hubert Winter, Vienna
1997 Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe
1995 University of Michigan Museum
1994 Galerij S65, Aalst
1993 Yvon Lambert, Paris
1989 Blum Helman Gallery, New York
1984 Yvon Lambert, Paris
1982 Carol Taylor Gallery, Dallas
1980 Margo Leavin, Los Angeles
1980 Greenberg Gallery, St. Louis
1979 Daniel Weinberg, San Francisco
1979 Konrad Fischer, Dusseldorf
1978 Young Hoffman, Chicago
1978 Ugo Feranti, Rome
1978 Wadworth Athenaeum, Hartford
1975 Francoise Lambert, Milan
1974 Konrad Fischer, Dusseldorf
1974 MTL Gallery, Brussels
1972 Yvon Lambert, Paris

Selected group exhibitions
2020 Caixa Forum, Barcelona
2018 British Museum, London
2016 Portland Art Museum
2015 David Zwirner, New York
2014 New Mexico Museum of Art
2011 Art Institute of Chicago
2010 Centre Pompidou, Paris
2009 MoMA PS1, New York
2007 Hayward Gallery, London
2001 Neue Galerie, Graz
1998 Tel Aviv Museum of Art
1990 Museum of Modern Art, New York
1987 Metropolitan Museum, New York
1986 MoCA, Chicago
1984 Serpentine Gallery, London
1980 Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels
1979 Whitney Museum, New York
1978 Lisson Gallery, London
1978 Pace Gallery, New York
1975 Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

Selected collections
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris
British Museum, London
Brooklyn Museum, New York
Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
Cincinnati Museum of Art, Cincinnati 
Collection Lambert, Avignon
Corcoran Gallery, Washington
Dallas Museum of Fine Art, Dallas
Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington
Detroit Museum of Art, Detroit
FRAC Pays de la Loire, Carquefou
Harvard University Art Museum, Cambridge
High Museum, Atlanta
Honolulu Academy of Arts, Honolulu
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis 
Kiasma Museum, Helsinki
Kunstmuseum Winthertur, Switzerland
Louisiana Museum, Humlebaek
Metropolitan Museum, New York
Miami Art Museum, Miami
Musée Cantini, Marseille
Musée de Grenoble, Grenoble
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Museum of Modern Art, New York
National Gallery of Art, Washington
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Neue Galerie, Graz
New Orleans Museum of Art
New York Public Library, New York
Oklahoma City Museum, Oklahoma
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix
Portland Art Museum, Portland
Power Art Collection, Sydney
RISD Museum, Rhode Island
Seattle Art Museum, Seattle
Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, Munich
Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe
St Louis Art Museum, St Louis
Tel Aviv Museum of Art
University Art Museum, Berkeley
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
Whitney Museum, New York
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven

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.