Critics’ Picks

Jeanette Mundt, Climbing, 2016, oil on panel, steel and brass pipes and fittings, 48 x 105 1/2 x 16''.

Jeanette Mundt, Climbing, 2016, oil on panel, steel and brass pipes and fittings, 48 x 105 1/2 x 16''.

New York

Jeanette Mundt

Off Vendome
254 West 23rd Street #2
February 18–March 26, 2016

Mountain ranges and female bodies, with their slopes and crevices, precipitous peaks and valleys, are recurring motifs in Jeanette Mundt’s work, and they anchor this succinct, alluring show, appearing in the two most striking paintings. The Matterhorn, beloved by centuries of artists, is rendered in radioactive shades of cobalt, coral, and teal in Another Double Mountain and the Modern Sofa (all works 2016). And in Climbing, Mundt nods to Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, copying the nude figure from his painting Crouching Woman with Red Hair, 1897. Both of Mundt’s works are painted on large, upright wooden panels supported by pipes. The artist’s treatment of their edges is deliberately rough. In Climbing, the perimeter veers wide in places, exaggerating the woman’s ample derriere, yet cuts closely elsewhere, carving a jagged notch out of her breast.

These raw, irregular borders and Mundt’s loose, expressive brushwork pose a wry answer to slicker forms of appropriation, such as the flawlessly excised knights and angels in Sarah Charlesworth’s “Renaissance Paintings,” 1991. But Mundt shares Charlesworth’s incisive fascination with how images shape the way we see. Hacking these iconic subjects from their original contexts, Mundt evokes the brutal process of memory and cultural learning. By looking, we cut these images out of art history and install them in our own psyches, where they inform our perception of women and nature. Neither nudes nor mountains would exist the same way in the absence of a culture that fetishizes them. Mundt’s aforementioned redhead wears an ambiguous expression, gazing down at a point beyond the bed. She appears quietly prepared (her pose suggests an impending penetration) or possibly resigned: ready for viewers and critics to plot their opinions onto her body.