Painting vanishes from Aspen Club
December 29, 2007
ASPEN ” “Eagle and Aircraft,” a painting by former Aspenite Jorg Madlener, has an interesting history. The work, mixed media on cotton canvas, was originally titled “Remembering Jackson Pollock,” a tribute to the late artist and done in the style of Pollock’s iconic “drip” paintings.
Madlener, who now lives in New York, then reworked the canvas, transforming it into an image of an eagle encountering the propeller of an aircraft. The mix of abstract expressionism, and the representative images done with a World War I feel, says Madlener, are like “two totally different vocabularies.”
But for present purposes, it suffices to say that the painting is big. Really big, the biggest piece Madlener has ever made. “Eagle and Aircraft” is some 15 feet by 10 feet, and weighs approximately 250 pounds.
Big enough that it would be hard to lose, hard to hide, and hard to remove from the wall of a public building without anyone noticing. Yet, “Eagle and Aircraft” has taken mysterious flight.
Madlener says he displayed the painting in 1999 at the Aspen Club and Spa, as part of his Flight of the Eagle exhibit. When he moved from Aspen in 2001, he took the other pieces from the exhibit with him. But “Eagle and Aircraft” was just too bulky to contend with.
“That one I left, because it was such a dread to move,” said Madlener. “It took three people to mount it.”
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This past fall, Parchman Stremmel, a gallery in San Antonio, found a potential buyer with an interest in the painting. The price was to be negotiated, but Madlener approximated it would fetch $20,000. Madlener called the Aspen Club to make arrangements to have the painting shipped for inspection, but the piece was missing. Madlener finally spoke to Aspen Club owner Michael Fox to solve the mystery.
“I said, ‘How can it be that a painting of that size walks out of the room with nobody noticing?’ It’s unimaginable,” said Madlener.
Fox says there is another dimension, apart from size and weight, that Madlener has failed to consider: time.
“He put this thing up on the wall of the Aspen Club 10 years ago,” said Fox. “Frankly, I haven’t seen it in five or six years. I assumed Jorg came and got it years ago. Maybe he did. It’s not like someone came and just took it off the wall. It’s this monster painting. I figure you’d need a professional installation team to take this thing down.”
The saga of “Eagle and Aircraft” has all the makings of a great story some years in the future: an artistically distinctive work of art that goes missing turns up decades later. Only this one is not about to be found stashed away in some old lady’s sock drawer.