(noun) nonchalant absurdity with a dash of embarrassment.

(verb) to be shark bitten.

(adverb) in a manner that is nonchalantly absurd and embarrassing.

28 March 2013

Adrian Ghenie: Why Some Shows Sell Out?

Pie Fight Interior 8, 2012, oil on canvas
First thoughts when entering the gallery at Pace and seeing Adrian Ghenie’s work: Francis Bacon, with all due respect to Ghenie. Tortured figures, painterly and expressionistic in style, and deeply imbued in historical references––the artist has figured out what it takes for his work to be placed among the likes of his predecessors: recollection, reference and renewal. I am not the only one who sees this, Ghenie has recently shown his work alongside Bacon’s at the Palazzo Strozzi in Italy. The artist not only includes modern, European history in his work, mostly the darker currents, but he also alludes to the history of art. In general, the Pie Fight series refers to film stills from silent comedies of the 1920s where the actor has custard smeared all over his face. More specifically, in Pie Fight Interior 8, Ghenie shows a Hitler like figure in a dress, with a pie smeared face, in front of a "dictator's desk and lamp, which Ghenie painted from photos of Hitler's chancellery." The canvas, that looks somewhat like a used palette in parts, layers of paint scraped away or added, is a beautiful disaster and standing before it, the viewer must ask themselves, do or do I not like this piece? For me, it is incredibly likable, I would go as far and say I love it, but it is livable? The thing is, Ghenie’s work is haunting, as it should be, for he often includes Nazi history as a motif, although in some paintings more subtly than others.

In an article in Interview magazine, Ghenie is quoted: “I like the difference between the official story and the personal perspective.” This is what sets him apart, his springboard, that welcomes the past alongside a new, contemporary perspective. It is his technique and style, the stories he chooses, and how he puts it together that sets Adrian Ghenie apart. As haunting as his figures may be with their faces, the thick layers of oil paint scraped away and blurred, his composite approach has made him successful, selling out the entire show at Pace before it even opened with price points that ranged from $65,000 to $350,000. (One must not disregard the simple fact that he has the powerhouse Pace behind him selling his work, this factor, sadly to say, being the greatest; albeit he was listed in  Art + Auction's "50 Next Most Collectible Artists" in June 2012.)

The Death of Charles Darwin, 2013, oil on canvas
The viewer’s point of entry changes depending upon where they are standing, be it up close, to the left, or to the right and far away. This changing point of view makes the painting ever the more dynamic.  In The Death of Charles Darwin (in the past he has used Darwin to refer to the “Nazi’s ideological bastardization of Charles Darwin’s theories of natural selection”) the bridge in the background, specfically its arch, frames the figure and governs the viewers eye, creating an illusion as one moves around. The expressionistic speckles in the top, foreground give the painting a violent undertone, a purposeful mistake, the color scheme completely different than the rest of the painting. This painting, was by far my favorite. The type of work you return to several times while visiting a show, creating a silent love affair between the viewer and this particular piece of art. The show is powerful, to say the least, and is up until May 8 at Pace Gallery, 534 W.25 Street, New York, NY.