Critics’ Picks

Ellen Harvey, The Room of Sublime Wallpaper, 2008, painted wooden panels, forty-two Plexiglas mirrors mounted to swivels, newspaper, tape, dimensions variable. Installation view.

Ellen Harvey, The Room of Sublime Wallpaper, 2008, painted wooden panels, forty-two Plexiglas mirrors mounted to swivels, newspaper, tape, dimensions variable. Installation view.

Berlin

Ellen Harvey

Galerie Gebr. Lehmann | Berlin
Lindenstrasse 35
May 1–June 5, 2010

Taking its title from William Gilpin’s late-eighteenth-century philosophy of the landscape, Ellen Harvey’s exhibition “Picturesque Pictures” cleverly demonstrates that the now ubiquitous tangle between representation and reality has quite a long history indeed. Gilpin’s measure of beauty—rooted in the tradition of landscape painting—was based on how closely a scene correlated to established landscape conceits, thereby positing preexisting images as the grounds for aesthetic appraisal of the natural world.

Gilpin’s ideas find new life in Harvey’s parodic Observations Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty, 2009, a series of forty-nine sepia watercolor landscapes and an accompanying narrative that wittily evaluate a public park in Ghent, Belgium, according to Gilpin’s criteria for the picturesque. Elsewhere, the walk-in installation titled The Room of Sublime Wallpaper, 2008, uses dozens of mirrors to create an illusive series of landscape paintings, which, much like the pocket-size mirrors championed by Gilpin for transforming sweeping landscapes into easily painted views, turn out to reflect the painted wall at the viewer’s back.

In a more contemporary take on landscape painting’s legacy, Harvey’s series of three “chocolate-box” paintings points to the kitschy consequences of formulaic aesthetics taken to an extreme. In accordance with the artist’s earlier works, painting serves in this show as a conceptual tool, facilitating Harvey’s investigation into the manifold employments of this genre across time. Adapting to multiple styles, this is painting about painting, and about the multiple levels on which it connotes meaning, historically and today.

A concurrent exhibition by the artist, “The Doppelgänger Collections,” is on view at magnus müller, Weydinger Strasse 10/12.