Critics’ Picks

Holly, 2006.

Holly, 2006.

Vienna

Judith Eisler

Galerie Krobath Wimmer
Eschenbachgasse 9
September 12–October 21, 2006

In titling her solo exhibition in Vienna “Anhauchen” (To Breathe On), New York–based artist Judith Eisler conjures a subject rife with philosophical import. While no direct equivalent exists in English, the word, more common in poetry than in conversational German, suggests a form of breathing out, a brief, intense meeting of interior and exterior. The artist begins her process by playing videotapes of films (such as the Heddy Lamarr classic Ecstasy [1933] and David Cronenberg’s Crash [1996]), pausing them to photograph the screen at moments external to the film’s explicit narrative; for this show, she focuses on frames involving breath, such as the exhalation of cigarette smoke. Eisler uses this found footage as source material for her paintings, translating the photographic stills into atmospheric, noisy portraits of faces, theatrically lit silhouettes, and blurry details. Her obsessive focus on the act of breathing generates paintings that dwell in a liminal space—the people pictured are ethereal; they seem to be illuminated from within. Though the picture’s filmic origins are inscribed in the works’ unique lighting and perspective, the movies’ plots are secondary: Here, painting itself takes the director’s role.