Critics’ Picks

Cornelius Völker, Meerschweinchen #91 (Guinea Pig #91), 2003, oil on linen, 15 3/4 x 19". From the series “Meerschweinchen,” 2003.

Cornelius Völker, Meerschweinchen #91 (Guinea Pig #91), 2003, oil on linen, 15 3/4 x 19". From the series “Meerschweinchen,” 2003.

New York

“EINFLUSS: 8 from Düsseldorf”

Hosfelt Gallery
531 West 36th Street
November 19, 2010–January 15, 2011

“Introducing the Next Wave from Germany” is an ambitious, but deserved, subtitle for the eight-artist show Todd Hosfelt has assembled out of Düsseldorf’s ever-fertile Kunstakademie. The exhibition (consisting only of paintings save for two installations by Luka Fineisen) juxtaposes a range of styles, subjects, and perspectives. Ultimately, it is the artists’ shared technical talent and palpable appreciation for painting’s storied history that unify them as a “wave.” Their skill and conceptual sophistication with regard to painting owe, in no small part, to the tutelage of masters including Kiefer, Lupertz, Penck, Polke, and Richter. The enviable “Einfluss” (influence)—blatant in some cases, subtler in others—of the Kunstakademie’s recent faculty permeates the emerging generations’ work.

All eight artists display an appealing mix of academic training, art-critical savvy, and freshness. Standouts include Cornelius Völker, Bernard Lokai, and Driss Ouadahi. In his “Meerschweinchen” (Guinea Pig) series, 2003, Völker transforms a gimmicky subject into a profound meditation on how to render the intricacies of fur’s texture, sheen, and volume in oils. Seen together (here, as a set of nine), the “Meerschweinchen” transcend the “fluff” they ostensibly represent—these are serious paintings about painting. Another well-executed self-referential painting is Lokai’s Landschafts block N, 2010, in which the artist depicts eighteen land-, sea-, and sky-scapes in disparate styles quoting, in turn, the brushstrokes of Monet, Turner, and Richter (his teacher), among others. Ouadahi aims wider, confronting head-on perhaps the overarching critical discourse in modern painting: abstraction versus representation. In an arresting urban landscape motif, he synthesizes aspects from both camps—acknowledging the wide range of influences (from Mondrian’s grid to Gursky’s dizzying large-format architectural photographs) on contemporary painting.