Marking his latest engagement and exploration of the intersections of history, pop culture, and the dialogues of art history that are bound within the former, artist Adrian Ghenie presents The Fear of NOW, is an exhibition of new oil paintings and charcoal drawings at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac. He fuses the profoundly personal with the art historical, bridging the abstract and the figurative to examine the impact of the Digital Age on the human condition.
The artist’s work here dwells on “Impossible bodies,” composed of bulbous, biomorphic forms executed in textured passages of dusky pink, purple, taupe and grey paint. Sat on chairs, or perched on the edge of desks, the figures are hunched over, engrossed in their electronic devices. Rich with the sensuousness of Baroque painting, these figurative works are punctuated by the presence of digital technology – an Apple laptop or iPhone – reconfiguring art historical conventions for 21st-century society. The artist draws upon diverse art historical and contemporary cultural references to construct his figurative style: from the work of Otto Dix and Philip Guston, to the hybrid, monstrous aliens in the animated series Rick and Morty. Ghenie compares the process of bringing these different references together to the incongruous imagery juxtaposed on multiple tabs open simultaneously on an internet browser.
Recognisable objects function, in the artist’s words, as ‘a hook to situate the viewer in reality.’ In Figure with Remote Control (2022), discarded fast-food wrappers, a television and Ghenie’s signature Nike trainers are the most legible elements of the painting. Together, they contextualise the contemporary landscape of the Digital Era within the domestic setting of the artist’s flat.
Throughout, Ghenie takes these myriad references and spins them into forms somewhere between the comical and the horrifying, particularly in a series of works drawing on the famed portrait of Marilyn Monroe originally reproduced multiple times by Andy Warhol. Using a similar mode of repetitive reproduction, Ghenie realizes a string of new works depicting the film star, but twists the visage through a range of brushstrokes, distortions, abstractions and gestures, each time arriving at a new representation that manages to hold a certain abstract consistency, while taking a number of striking iterations to heart.
Underscoring the landscape of the post-digital, Ghenie’s work makes for a chilling, yet fascinating exploration of
The show closes December 22nd.
– C. Rhinehardt
Adrien Ghenie: The Fear of Now [Exhibition Site]