London – “Rita Ackermann: Fire by Days” at Hauser & Wirth Picadilly, Through November 3rd, 2012

October 5th, 2012

Image: Rita Ackermann, Fire By Days: The Fool I, 2012, oil on canvas
All images courtesy Hauser & Wirth Gallery

On view at Hauser and Wirth’s London Picadilly space is the exhibition entitled Fire By DaysRita Ackermann’s latest series by the same name.

It is comprised of three miniseries: Fire by DaysFire by Days Blues and Fire by Days The Fool. The first two contain numerous diptychs that have been created by initially pressing the works together to form a ‘reflective pair’ but then working each piece separately yet simultaneously to distort the reflective essence of the duos.

Image: Rita Ackermann, Fire By Days I , 2012, oil, acrylic and spray paint on canvas

Ackermann was born in 1968 in Hungary but moved to New York in the early 90s and still practices here. She is commonly known for her painting, drawing and collages associated with darkly cartoonish images of youthful and carefree girls whose physical attributes echo her own countenance.

Image: Rita Ackermann, Fire By Days – Blues V (diptych), spray paint, Vaseline and oil on paper, 2012

The title of the entirety of the series is inspired by the poem, Vacancy in Glass, by Roger Gilbert-Lecomte that poignantly recounts a sense of loss in conjunction with a bird’s flight.

‘Vacancy in Glass’

To a palace made
Of wind
To a palace whose towers
Are pillars of fire by day
To an opal palace
In the sky’s zenith heart
The bird of pale air
In a swift white line
On black space
A brushstroke
Signifying absence

Roger Gilbert-Lecomte (1907 – 1943)
In ‘Black Mirror: The Selected Poems of Roger Gilbert-Lecomte’

Image: Rita Ackermann, Fire By Days IV , 2012, oil, acrylic and spray paint on canvas

- Fire By Days – 

For this series, Ackermann was inspired in an accident whereby she spilled paint and enamel on the floor and promptly cleaned up with a fire safety poster. The unrefined effect of the enamel and paint on the printed paper fascinated her and resulted in an entire collection being produced (2010-2012) that allowed her to explore the consequence of accidents in her work without inhibition.

The images explore the boundaries between abstract and figurative in an imaginative and almost spiritual way. Each piece is initially begun with a ‘staged accident’. This paradoxical and potentially ironic action involves initiating a ‘spill’ with a variety of mediums onto paper. The diptych pieces are then pressed together to form a pair; every image, whether freestanding or partnered with another, is then worked into by Ackermann in a process involving her looking for figurative meaning behind the abstract shapes and colors previously created.

Fire By Days vividly depicts a rather grotesque distortion of the female anatomy, whereby the limbs of the beings appear fragmented and pained – the red paint emphasizing the violence.

Image: Rita Ackermann, Fire by Days-Blues III , 2012, oil on paper

Fire by Days – Blues – 

The Blues, on the other hand, are much calmer by comparison, emitting a more somber and placid tone. This miniseries is the most abstract of the three and particularly focuses on pushing the boundaries of the figurative.


Rita Ackermann, Fire by Days: Fools Face IV-XIV , 2012, pencil and oil on paper

– Fire by Days The Fool – 

Finally, The Fool appears to make an attempt at coming back to a more figurative language, challenging figurative representation in a way similar to the distorted faces of Picasso; we can only guess they are of a personal nature for Ackermann as well. The series also lends itself to the various ‘periods’ of Picasso, echoing the drastic change in color within his work.

The various mediums that have been used to purposefully mark the paper either in a figurative sense or with an action reliant on fate, appear liberated yet slightly subdued — evoking a subtle sorrow that envelops the pieces which take their inspiration in Vacancy in Glass.

– E. Longstaff
Exhibition website: [Hauser & Wirth]
Rita Ackermann via [Andrea Rosen Gallery]
Art in America: [Rita Ackermann Has a Fire in Her]