Eliza Douglas and Anne Imhof

Galerie Buchholz | New York
17 East 82nd Street
September 7, 2017–October 21, 2017

View of “Eliza Douglas and Anne Imhof,” 2017.

Unlike the spare, languid performance of Faust, 2017—which won Anne Imhof the Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Biennale and made art partner/model Eliza Douglas’s face more recognizable than Balenciaga did—the duo’s exhibition rings in as cynical excess. But perhaps that’s the point.

The gallery is rammed with work, much of it scaled to fit just between the ceiling and floor. Examples of each artist’s paintings sit alongside fourteen new collaborative ones: variations on what appear to be the pair’s signatures, the script rotated to form a spine down the center of each black-and-white canvas. Whereas Cy Twombly used handwriting to demonstrate how the body metabolizes information, Douglas and Imhof use it to signify the pair’s currency. In many ways, the artists seem aware of the extent to which their debut at this gallery could be overdetermined by their cultish (yet gutting) performance. But if Venice gave us alienation as a byproduct of collectivity’s exploitability in systems of capital and fashion, New York sees the artists ready to exploit the capital and fashion their collectivity leveraged. Paintings such as Signature VII (Eliza) and Signature XIII (Eliza), both 2017, depict the same silk-screened image of Douglas, mouth agape between center part and bare clavicle, that became iconic as part of the performance’s setting.

A prominent aspect of Faust, for which Imhof built glass partitions into the Nazi-designed German pavilion, was its transparency. By contrast, this exhibition is quite reflective: Imhof’s paintings feature gestures scratched into black or blue acrylic on mirrorlike aluminum—viewers can hardly escape themselves in the surfaces, sites for the enactment of a viral vanity.

Annie Godfrey Larmon