Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Adrian Ghenie. The Graces. Galerie Judin. Berlin. 2017

Adrian Ghenie. The Graces. Galerie Judin. Berlin. 2017

Adrian Ghenie. The Graces. Galerie Judin

Adrian Ghenie. The Graces. Galerie Judin

Adrian Ghenie. Grace. Galerie Judin

Adrian Ghenie (detail).

Adrian Ghenie. On the Beach. Galerie Judin

Adrian Ghenie (detail).

Adrian Ghenie. The Graces. Galerie Judin

Adrian Ghenie. The Graces. Galerie Judin

Adrian Ghenie. The Graces. Galerie Judin

Adrian Ghenie. The Toy. Galerie Judin

Adrian Ghenie (detail).

Adrian Ghenie (detail).
Press Release:
The open­ing of Adrian Ghenie’s exhi­bi­tion The Graces marks—to the day—the 10th anniver­sary of his first solo exhi­bi­tion for gal­lerist Juerg Judin. The works in that exhi­bi­tion, Shadow of a Daydream, were all painted in muted, somber col­ors that upon closer inspec­tion were revealed as rich hues of unexpected var­i­ety and depth. Cre­ated at the very be­gin­ning of his career, they attested to what would make his paint­ings so dis­tinc­tive, rel­evant and ulti­mately influ­en­tial: his abil­ity to stage his per­sonal expe­r­i­ence of history, an under­stand­ing of the col­lec­tive mem­ory and his profound knowl­edge of art history in complex, mul­ti­lay­ered and sug­ges­tive paint­ings. In the ten years that fol­lowed this aus­picious be­gin­ning, Ghenie’s paint­ings have gained color and mate­r­i­al­ity—at the same time as they have become more abs­tract. He applies paint in broad brushstrokes, only to scrape it off the canvas. The richly tex­tured surfaces are the yield of what could be described as ‘action paint­ing’, reveal­ing the scars of the tackling that occurs dur­ing the artist’s bat­tle with his sub­ject. In his endeavor to fuse image and paint­ing, Ghenie welcomes ‘acci­dents’, alternat­ing between action and reac­tion.
In The Graces, Ghenie is not pre­sent­ing a homoge­nous group of works, as regards either the sub­ject mat­ters or the media he uses. As is often the case in his gallery exhi­bi­tions, Ghenie combines revis­i­ta­tions of sub­jects that he has explored in pre­vi­ous exhi­bi­tions with entirely new picto­rial inven­tions. Seasoned vis­itors of Ghenie exhi­bi­tions know that they will expe­r­i­ence both, the pleasure and comfort of recog­ni­tion, as well as the shock of the new. In this exhi­bi­tion (and the simulta­ne­ous exhi­bi­tion at Gale­ria Plan B), Ghenie reveals his skills as a drafts­man in a group of large charcoal draw­ings. This surpris­ing and highly successful foray into a, for him, new technique con­cerns both the con­tin­u­a­tion of the Berghof se­ries, and the new thematic groups.
Ghenie’s fas­cina­tion with the Berghof, Hitler’s hol­i­day retreat in the Bavar­ian mountains, can be traced back to a paint­ing he made in 2008. It showed an untidy stack of presum­ably stolen paint­ings left behind by Nazi lead­ers. The next Berghof, painted in 2012, did not allude to the chaos of the inglo­ri­ous end of Hitler’s rule, but rather showed a peaceful scene with a seated male fig­ure on the
famous terrace, looking onto the spectac­u­lar alpine panorama. In the new Berghof paint­ings, the mon­u­mental Alpine Retreat 2, Study for ‘Alpine Retreat 2’ and Berghof, as well as the large charcoal draw­ing The Happy Host and the collage The Way of All Flesh, Ghenie returns to the iconic terrace. It is the unsettling histor­ical footage of Hitler as a fam­ily man, friendly uncle and car­ing partner of Eva Braun, that fuel the artist’s imag­ina­tion. All the while, the fact that in Alpine Retreat 2 Eva Braun can be seen as being preg­nant starts off a whole differ­ent movie in the view­ers mind.
Both the large paint­ing Hunt­ing Scene and the charcoal draw­ing The Hunter are based on a typ­ical genre paint­ing by a minor Dutch mas­ter, which Ghenie dis­cov­ered in the Her­mitage. In it, a well-dressed hunts­man, flanked by his loyal dogs, stands in a graceful pose and looks confi­dently at the viewer. In the draw­ing, Ghenie picks up on this fig­ure’s grace, dis­clos­ing the pos­si­ble ori­gin of the com­po­si­tion. In the paint­ing, how­ever, only the dogs are dis­tin­guish­able, in the foreground of a furi­ous landscape. Rampant abs­trac­tion has gained the upper hand in this com­po­si­tion.
Beauty of a more con­cealed nature emerges from the paint­ing Grace and the charcoal draw­ing of the same title. The fig­ure of the walking woman, if it is indeed a woman, reminds us of the voluptuous­ness that was the def­i­ni­tion of female beauty in the days of Rubens. Ghenie is reflect­ing on the pre­em­i­nence of light skin (i.e. the ‘Cau­casian race’) in art history. It’s not just Euro­pean art that favored a white complexion. In Asian art from past cen­turies, the depic­tion of human flesh rarely relates to the darker skin color of the local pop­u­la­tions. This is a phe­nomenon that Ghenie intends to address in future works. The fig­ure’s lat­eral pose is atyp­ical in West­ern art history—it reminds us of Muybridge’s pio­neer­ing photo­graphic studies of motion. And indeed, the paint­ing is based on a black & white photo­graph of the artist’s mother walking on a Black Sea beach.
In The Toy, the white­ness of the fig­ure’s skin con­trasts sharply with the rich reds of the background. The fig­ure’s gen­der is unclear, but since it has shoul­dered a rifle, we assume it’s a boy. Like the female fig­ure in Grace, the body in this paint­ing seems over­ex­posed by an unlocat­able source of light.
The three self-por­traits in the exhi­bi­tion are a con­tin­u­a­tion of Ghenie’s exam­ina­tion of his own phys­iog­nomy. Recently, the por­tray­als have become more and more decon­struc­tivist. In the paint­ing On the Beach, we see him sitt­ing in front of a spectac­u­lar seascape. It, too, is com­posed in a decon­struc­tivist manner, made up of oddly shaped ele­ments in col­ors that we don’t nec­es­sar­ily asso­ciate with water. The artist has painted him­self face­less, rec­og­niz­able only by his silhou­ette, famil­iar from many other self-por­traits. His desire to merge his own face with that of a histor­ical fig­ure (Darwin, van Gogh, Hitler) or an ani­mal seems to have given way to a more exis­ten­tial­ist inquiry into human nature—using his own face as read­ily avai­l­able stand-in for the common man.

Adrian Ghenie. Study for Alpine Retreat. Self-Portrait. Galerie Judin

Adrian Ghenie. The Graces. Galerie Judin

Adrian Ghenie. Alpine Retreat 2. Galerie Judin

Adrian Ghenie (detail).

Adrian Ghenie. Hunting Scene. Galerie Judin

Adrian Ghenie (detail).

Adrian Ghenie (detail).

Adrian Ghenie (detail).

Adrian Ghenie. Galerie Judin

Adrian Ghenie. Self-Portrait. Galerie Judin

Adrian Ghenie. The Way of All Flesh. Galerie Judin

Adrian Ghenie. The Graces. Galerie Judin

18 November 2017 – 3 February 2018. Galerie Judin.

 



1 comment:

  1. Ghenie's art leaves me speechless. He is the greatest living painter in my opinion.

    ReplyDelete