Brunk Auctions
Live Auction

Premier Auction - Session II | November 12, 2022

Sat, Nov 12, 2022 09:00AM EST
Lot 663

Winfred Rembert

Estimate: $80,000 - $120,000

Bid Increments

Price Bid Increment
$0 $25
$100 $50
$1,000 $100
$2,000 $200
$3,000 $250
$5,000 $500
$10,000 $1,000
$20,000 $2,000
$50,000 $5,000
$100,000 $10,000

(American/Georgia, 1945-2021)

Chain Gang with Shovels, inscribed bottom center "Winfred Rembert Oct 2010", together with personal letter written by Winfred Rembert, dye on carved and tooled leather, 31 x 23 in.; metal frame 26 x 44-1/2 in.


Text of accompanying letter, as written by the artist:

"Chain Gang

In the ditch on the chaingang was a tough place to be. The work was hard and there were allways snakes & bees. I always keep my bushaxe sharp and ready for any wild animals that was harmful. When it came to bees there were no defence. All you could do was stand there and take the pain. The sun was another factor. We rarely had shad and we worked reguardles, rain or shine, hot or cold. You have to be strong in mind to do time on a chain gang. Mentat cruelty is a big part of doing time. Every day you have to prepare yourself on how to deal with the daly cruelty. Some make it and some dont. It was hard but I made it. The chain gang a big part of my life

[signed] Winfred Rembert"

Born in rural Georgia, raised in a community tied to the cotton fields, Winfred Rembert survived a childhood of poverty in the segregated South of the 1940s. He would go on to be a nationally recognized artist, and his biography - Chasing Me to My Grave: An Artist's Memoir of the Jim Crow South - was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2022.

It was not a well paved path. In 1966, after a demonstration in Americus, Georgia, Rembert was arrested and put in jail without being charged. A year later, he escaped but was caught and hung up by a group of deputy sheriffs. They stuck him with a knife but did not kill and burn him as he had anticipated. He spent the next seven years in a chain gang. Remarkably, he met his wife while building roads and bridges in rural Georgia as part of his prison sentence. While in prison, a man named TJ taught him how to carve wallets out of leather, a skill that he would use decades later in his embossed leather paintings.

After his release, Rembert and Patsy married and they moved to New York, then Connecticut, where he worked a variety of jobs. Not until in his 50s after a second round in prison, did he begin to draw and paint the scenes of his youth, carving the stories into tactile leather canvases.

In 2000, Rembert had a well publicized show at the Yale University Art Gallery. In 2002, he was introduced to Peter Tillou after speaking about his artwork at a school in Waterbury, Connecticut. A short time later they agreed to a working relationship that included numerous exhibitions and his 2010 "coming out" show at Adelson Galleries in New York. His work has entered major museum and private collections.

Provenance: Acquired Directly from the Artist; Private Collection


laid down on foam core, some of the inmates uniforms have a brown tone, likely as made, see detail photos; frame with light wear

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