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Gerhardsen Gerner presents LARI PITTMAN

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15 Sept 2016 to 29 Oct 2016
Opening times: Tue–Sat 11am–6pm
Gerhardsen Gerner
Holzmarktstr. 15-18
S-Bahnbogen 46
10179 Berlin-Mitte
T: +49 30 695 183 41
F: +49 30 695 183 42

Artists in this exhibition: LARI PITTMAN


Opening, September 15, 7-9 pm

"Artworks exist within the most diverse contexts and discourses. When a painting travels to another country for an exhibition, it brings its background along with it, and is then charged with new socio-cultural and iconographic contexts." (Lari Pittman on his new paintings, August 2016)
Pittman's complex paintings are always based on an abundance of signs and symbols. The artist's work can be described as semantic, because it creates a kind of linguistic system within painting. Meshes of lines, shapes, colour fields, shadings and image layers combine to form a greater whole, building up its own cosmos of meaning. It is just like how language uses characters, words and sentences to weave a fabric of meaning with endless levels of understanding, which have generated tragic misunderstandings and lucky coincidences over the course of history.
The artist takes a historical approach in his new works. His previous exhibition at the Gladstone Gallery was entitled "Nuevos caprichos" and addressed Goya's caprichos. In "Grisaille, Ethics & Knots (paintings with cataplasms)" Lari Pittman now presents a completely new series of paintings. The palette uses all shades of grey, interrupted by blocks of signal red and pastose white oil paint applied to the image field.
Using the grey scale, the grisaille technique was often used in the Middle Ages to obtain an illusion of three-dimensionality in two-dimensional painting. For example, it was possible to simulate sculptures placed in niches on the flat surfaces of altars. However, like in Picasso's Guernica, here this art historical quotation creates a heavy, gloomy atmosphere.
In the foreground of the canvases, grotesque human silhouettes writhe with their bodies dismembered. Arms, legs, and hands are missing, a head tilts downward, separated from the body. Round elements such as screw heads or nodes that are held together by fine, straight lines are placed over the bodies. There is the suggestion of the broken body of the “Schmerzensmann” from Christian iconography. The grisaille technique thus seems to come full circle, because usually it was martyred figures who were depicted on the altars, their bodies maimed by mechanical forces.
In the middle layers of the images, tools such as rakes, axes, scissors, pitchforks, dustpans or saws are incorporated into an ethnologically decorative assembly of lines. Or smaller elements, such as feathers, birds, leaves and branches, animals or miniature representations of people can be found, which through their reduction appear as ghostly apparitions from a distant, half-forgotten family saga.
The imagery suggests that these new works deal with violence. Indeed, the United States and Europe have committed cruel acts of violence throughout the centuries. Over the course of history, these have become internalized, written into the collective memory and in the depths of our bodies. However, it is not Pittman's aim merely to visualize these acts of violence. Much more, his intention is to use painting to create an idea or a vision of the impact of this violence. He shows how collective, social trauma might look.
"Grisaille, Ethics & Knots (paintings with cataplasms)" is the title of the exhibition. Indeed, in any culture and at any time, ethics and morality can produce knots or lead up a blind alley, giving rise to so much suffering.
Nevertheless, the image is granted a chance to heal: Wide, voluminous areas of white paint cover the image, forming its upper layer. Pittman's characteristic style, otherwise so surface orientated, allows for these elevated pastose sections. Over the flickering black and white, they act as dressings for the wounds. Interestingly, it isn't the disfigured bodies directly that are offered healing with the bandages, but rather, it is the deeper layers of the painting that have the possibility of recovering by the treatment from the cataplasms.
Lari Pittman was born in 1952 in Glendale, California, and lives and works in Los Angeles, where he is a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. Pittman has been awarded the J. Paul Getty Trust Fund for the Visual Arts Fellowship Grant in Painting, the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Grant in Painting, and the Skowhegan Medal for Painting. He participated in Documenta X (1997) and four Whitney Biennial exhibitions (1985, 1993, 1995, 1997), and has been the subject of solo exhibitions at notable institutions including: the Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis; Le Consortium, Dijon; the Institute of Contemporary Art, London; Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneva; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; the Corcoran Museum, Washington; Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston; and Villa Arson, Nice.


Linienstraße 85
10119 BERLIN / Germany

T: +49 30 69 51 83 41
Tue–Sat 11am–6pm 

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