Critics’ Picks

Ellen Gronemeyer, Tipsy Cat, 2007–2009, oil on canvas paper, 12 3/5 x 9 1/2".


Ellen Gronemeyer

1a Kempsford Road
May 7–June 16

On entering Ellen Gronemeyer’s exhibition, visitors are greeted by the head of a character with a broad grin: It Was Not Me, 2008–2009, serves as an appropriate point of departure for the range of fictional portraits that, in different ways, evoke the grotesque and caricature. This selection of recent pieces is the culmination of all Gronemeyer’s previous work in that its appeal lies in its aesthetically recalcitrant nature. The cast of this whimsical world of images consists of ecstatic visages (Crossing the Line, 2009), cat-women (It Took the Night to Believe It, 2007–2008), kids wearing glasses (Out of One’s Head, 2009), and almost faceless forms (Withdrawal, 2008). Though the representations are singular, they are not personalized; they are more types than individuals. In these images, Gronemeyer marries comic distortion to an experimental use of basic pictorial formulas. For example, overlapping circular forms become a multifocal face in A Hundred Times in Any Direction, 2008–2009, and a delicately painted portrait of a woman in I Don’t Know Why, 2008–2009. The latter is overlaid with the schematic outline of a keyhole and a bulbous-nosed Kilroy figure, while the intensely formalized structure of the work mainly proceeds from the surface. Gronemeyer combines the contouring of the figures in her recent pieces with a grisaillelike surface, which is extremely dense and superbly structured. Thus, the overall impression of many of her paintings is reduced, while a closer glimpse of her paintings’ “skin,” so to speak, reveals great complexity––there is not a single inch that has not been worked over again and again. This is particularly true of the smaller paintings, such as It Took the Night and Tipsy Cat, 2007–2009, which can be seen either as a mythical figure or as an almost abstract composition. Its harsh contouring gives rise to subtle aspects: The dense mass of color, almost all of which appears to have been finely spackled on, forms a pale gray layer that seems to be illuminated from the inside by numerous shades of blue, red, and yellow that, together, tend toward white––a cool colorfulness that is typical of Gronemeyer’s painting.