I never can talk about my art. Art historians can, but I really can't. Whatever that thing is on paper or in bronze, it came out of my fingers and my heart or soul.

Dorothy Dehner

The Mark Isaacson
and Greg Nacozy Collection

The Collection of Mark Isaacson and Greg Nacozy includes over two-hundred works from one of the most significant figures in mid-century collecting. Mark established the influential Fifty/50 gallery in New York in 1981 (later partnering with Mark McDonald and Ralph Cutler in 1983), which shaped the tastes and collecting habits of many and brought furniture, decorative arts and jewelry from the 1930s, 40s and 50s to the forefront of the market at a time when they were largely overlooked.

Greg Nacozy and Mark Isaacson in Venice, c. 1985 

Fifty/50’s and Mark’s legacy is most closely associated with bringing Italian art glass to the United States (Mark even advised the MET on their Italian glass collection) and raising the profile of mid-century furniture and American studio jewelry and ceramics; iconic examples of each are represented in this auction, including an early Rudder Stool by Isamu Noguchi, Charlotte Perriand’s and Pierre Jeanneret’s Bahut No. 2, a Gerrit Rietveld Zig-Zag chair, pottery by Edwin and Mary Scheier and Fausto Melotti, and Venini glassworks.

The most exciting aspects of this auction are the more intimate ones—the works from Mark's and Greg's personal collection that speak to Mark's eclectic taste, his boundless curiosity and sensitivity toward objects and art, and how generous he was in sharing his interests with others and letting them share with him. Standouts include several works by Robert Mapplethorpe—who was close friends with Mark, photographed several Fifty/50 catalogs and got many of the ceramics in his photographs from the gallery—the ecstatic wood construction Wild Plant by Leo Amino, a painting by Ralston Crawford of a spectacularly minimalist skyscraper façade, and photographic works by Man Ray, Edward Weston, Lynn Davis and Dorothea Lange.

Mark with Ed and Mary Scheier; Robert Mapplethorpe and Mark

This auction also features many works that tie together the thread of Mark’s collecting practices, going beyond the downtown New York sensibilities of the 1980s and showing the scope of eras and cultures that interested him; the sgraffito incisions on a 1940s Scheier vase echo the geometric features of a Senufo Kpeliye'e mask, the entrancing and complex shadows of a grain elevator in a photograph by Ralston Crawford contrast with the severe plainness of a New York City step-back building captured by Walker Evans, and the radical gestures of gay image making are seen in the works of George Platt Lynes, Paul Cadmus and Robert Loughlin. One of the artists in this sale, George Dureau, a photographer from New Orleans (where Greg is also from) who greatly influenced Mapplethorpe early in his career, perhaps best captures the spirit of this collection, saying about his own work:

“I live a warm, involved, humanist sort of life. There are lots of people passing through it. I have exciting experiences and learn things about people. They always go into my art. I cannot have an experience and it not go into my art.”
Mark and a friend at Brimfield; Mark's and Greg's apartment; Mark and Greg at The Armory Show

Fifty/50 gallery reshaped the collecting market during its twelve-year existence, closing in 1993 after Mark passed away from AIDS; his partner Greg has cared for the collection since.  The Collection of Mark Isaacson and Greg Nacozy offers an opportunity to see a short but impactful life lived through an enthusiasm for art and design, one that inspired many to see and appreciate objects and live with them as fully as Mark did.

Dorothy Dehner 1901–1994

Dorothy Dehner created work for nearly seven decades, but wide recognition belied her until she was in her forties. Her bronzes, which she is most known for, came about in the 1950s and, while having much in common with the prevailing ideals of abstract expressionism in sculpture during that era, trade strict geometric rationalism for warmth, humor and forms infused with an errant, playful spirit.

Dehner was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1901 and after the death of her parents, moved to Pasadena in 1915. From a young age, she displayed a variety of creative interests, including drawing, acting, poetry and dancing. She attended the University of California, Los Angeles for a short time to study modern dance, until moving to New York to study at the American Academy of Dramatic in 1922. She changed courses again in 1925, after a trip abroad exposed her to the avant-garde art movements happening in Europe, prompting her to enroll in the Art Students League in New York in 1926. That same year, she met the sculptor David Smith, who had just moved to New York to pursue his art career. The two married in 1927 and left New York in 1929, purchasing a farm in the secluded and pastoral Bolton Landing, near Lake George.

For the next twenty years, Dehner served as mother and wife, supporting Smith’s work and career and sidelining her own artistic ambitions. While she still painted and drew and showed her work in small group exhibitions, she desired to be a sculptor. While their marriage was tumultuous and Smith was largely dismissive of Dehner’s talents, he once wrote of her work: “there are qualities of the dance, delicacies, refinements and harmonies which I greatly admire because they are so far from my own world…in this particular family [she] is the one and only prize winner in a national competition.”

In 1950, Dehner left Smith and Bolton Landing to finish her degree at Skidmore College and, that same year, had her work shown at the Whitney Annual Exhibition (the first time her work was exhibited in New York). She had an auspicious debut in New York, quickly making up for lost time; her work was critically lauded, she trained in printmaking and sculpture, became close with artists such as Louise Nevelson, and in 1952, the same year she divorced Smith, began creating her celebrated bronze works.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Dehner continued to create sculptures increasingly ambitious in scale and form, inspired alike by totems, ancient forms, dance, and other contemporary sculptors. Her works are often regarded as (and titled as such) journeys, interior landscapes of searching, becoming and emerging. In 1955 she married Ferdinand Mann, an art dealer who was supportive of her career. Her prominence rose during this time, with solo shows at the Chicago Art Institute in 1955 and a retrospective at the Jewish Museum in New York in 1965. In the 1970s, she began working in wood and returned to drawing as well. Her eyesight began to deteriorate in the early 1980s and she began creating large public works modeled after earlier sculptures. Dehner was actively creating work up until her death in 1994.

Learn More

Auction Results Dorothy Dehner