Critics’ Picks


Cosima zu Knyphausen

Postdamer Str. 70
April 28–May 25, 2018

Obscuring the windows of the gallery and lending its title to the exhibition, The drapes were light (all works 2018) depicts a life-drawing class attended only by women in bright Victorian dresses. If such a scene ever took place, it did so, like this exhibition, behind drawn curtains. Here, Cosima zu Knyphausen relays an alternative history of female artistry and intimacy in a series of fine ink drawings and paintings that could be described as cute were they not so nonchalantly ballsy.

With one hand in her pocket and the other one taking a selfie, the figure in Fit mom sets the tone of the display in thematizing portraiture, but is alone among the works in bearing the mark of our contemporary. The art-historical meta-game really begins with Sunday (Holofernes), a small watercolor of a mother and daughter visiting Artemisia Gentileschi’s bloody protofeminist classic Judith Slaying Holofernes (1614–20). Other motifs include women as artists or in adoring embrace, unthinkable within the Biedermeier interiors where zu Knyphausen has placed them. Unless the artist dresses like Jane Eyre, Self-Portrait with Hanna exacerbates this element of fantasy, situating the works in a collapsed temporality where past and present are simultaneously repaired and critiqued.

The paintings are matte and hazy, their scales so modest that they can only really be viewed up close by one person at a time. A counterpoint to Fit mom and smaller than a Polaroid, the drawing Young woman is a dark mirage of privacy, one that, as we’ve all gained the conflicted privilege of self-exposure, is beginning to seem feasible only on canvas.