Rita Ackermann
Negative Muscle

Past Exhibition 5 Mar – 20 Apr 2013 New York, 69th Street


In Rita Ackermann‘s art, the systematic and the accidental are kept in a state of constant dialogue and debate. Balance and the effort to achieve it have become the main focus of her process, and a kind of magical flux has become both the subject and condition of her art. Nowhere is the alchemy of Ackermann’s work more vivid than in the group of seventeen paintings made between the years of 2010 and 2013 and presented in ‘Negative Muscle’, the artist’s first exhibition with Hauser & Wirth in New York, opening 5 March 2013.

‘Negative Muscle’ will remain on view at the gallery through 20 April 2013.

The exhibition takes its title from the very first painting Ackermann made following an intensive collaboration with filmmaker Harmony Korine on ‘Shadow Fux’, their 2010 exhibition of jointly-made collages at the Swiss Institute of Contemporary Art, New York NY. After ‘Shadow Fux’, Ackermann has said, ‘I felt a new kind of restless optimism about returning to my own artistic problems. I wanted to explore all the experience I collected while giving up an individual perspective. When I made ‘Negative Muscle’, I painted it freely without the confines of using photo elements or anything given to me to work with. It is a touchstone. I always think of it’.

Unfolding from ‘Negative Muscle’, the exhibition at Hauser & Wirth reveals Ackermann’s evolution over the past three years. Works on view include such 2010 paintings as ‘Without a Body’ and ‘Electro-Chemical Impulse’, achieved with the help of media ranging from oil paint and charcoal to rabbit skin glue, and a group of paintings on paper made in 2012.

The centrepiece of ‘Negative Muscle’ is a group of six new paintings from ‘Fire by Days’, a major ongoing series Ackermann initiated in late 2010. Heralding a merger of the non-representational and the figurative in her art, the ‘Fire by Days Blues’ canvases map Ackermann’s progression towards a highly personal and poetic form of abstraction.

Emphasizing the color blue in clouds and marks reminiscent of her ballpoint pen drawings, the ‘Fire by Days Blues’ paintings expand and intensify Ackermann’s longstanding motifs: As always, the artist creates compositional whirlpools, but the figurative quality of her earlier works has been liberated here by an unmistakable velocity. In the words of critic József Meyli, ‘Bodies move in and out of the picture plane, constantly morphing, disintegrating and achieving an almost magical duality of weightless grace and monstrous heaviness’.
Once explicit in her art, the human form plays an erotic hide-and-seek in the new paintings by emerging from and disappearing into the picture. Lines of spray paint and patches of color on the surface challenge depth of space and crack open the underlying systems Ackermann has created within each painting. The effect suggests that Ackermann’s figures are born from deep within the complex internal order of her paintings and, in the words of József Meyli, ‘creasing her canvases and piercing the psychological plane like geological extrusions’. At the same time, the artist points to a parallel dimension beyond what we can see: by intertwining abstraction and representation, bringing bodies and gestures to the forefront and then obscuring them, Ackermann hints at rooms beyond those of the gallery where space, objects and ideas are absorbed into a realm of her own design.

Taking its title from French poet Roger Gilbert-Lecomte’s ‘Vacancy in Glass’, Ackermann’s ‘Fire by Days’ series began as an accidental spill of paint on her studio floor. Ackermann mopped up the spill with a Hungarian fire safety poster. ‘I wanted to then duplicate the pure power of the accident through this image,’ she has said. ‘I wanted to multiply its freedom. By repeating the elements of the raw creation of a ‘disaster’ and failing to keep it from unintentional learned gestures, I arrived at something that violently pushed itself between figuration and abstraction, pushing through to make itself completely free. This type of freedom in painting only arrives for mere seconds, or rather for an immeasurable amount of time, but it reveals infinite perspective’.

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About the artist

The opposing impulses of creation and destruction mark the touchstone of the Hungarian-born, New York-based artist Rita Ackermann’s practice, which continues to evolve and manifest itself in the shift from representation to abstraction. Ackermann’s compositions occupy a space between the figurative and…

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