Critics’ Picks

Katrin Heichel, Guten Morgen Deutschland (Good Morning Germany), 2010, oil and egg tempera on canvas, 87 x 106”.

Katrin Heichel, Guten Morgen Deutschland (Good Morning Germany), 2010, oil and egg tempera on canvas, 87 x 106”.

New York

Katrin Heichel

Thierry Goldberg Gallery
109 Norfolk Street
June 16–July 22, 2011

As if this gallery needed to flesh out further its standing as a nexus for talented young international painters, the US debut of the Leipzig-based painter Katrin Heichel obliges with a tight show of seven works. In its title, palette, and surface alike, NPSP (There Is No Beauty Without Danger), 2010, recalls Francis Picabia’s mechanomorphs from 1915-22, in which isolated, flattened objects of industry serve as as deadpan doubles for the artist’s mordant wit. Here, a cement mixer hovers between schematic presence and prodigious corpulence, enlivened with touches of light and a striking play of shadows at its base. From its gaping hole, a stream of paint pours down the surface of the canvas, congealing in real time and real space in a lumpy pool at its base. Vergangenheit I (Past I), 2011, furthers this play between representation and raw materials. Next to a bucket and whitewashed wall, a painting roller sits at once neatly delineated and heavily encrusted. The coarse material of paint itself flits in and out of likeness and readymade.

A couple of the canvases find the painter skirting a more kitschy realism. With their windswept and salty surfaces, Pure Love and No Way, both 2011, conjure up the wan light of Provincetown beach scenes; the rusted metal and faded wood here appear too quaint. The artist is strongest when she appears ill at ease with her realisms. Featuring a broken umbrella splayed against a sidewalk drain, in a queasy disorientation of space, Protektor, 2011, lets us delight in the image’s wayward geometries as much as its unlikely still life. The sprawling Guten Morgen Deutschland (Good Morning Germany), 2010, reveals Heichel’s facility in larger scales as well. It is the absence of blue-collar workers here—invoked through a pair of gloves, a stray thermos, and a wall of worn-out pinups—that renders their presence so palpable. In this painting, Heichel’s flair for meticulously approximating magazine shots is balanced by the more freewheeling play of other surfaces; the tablecloth’s crisscross pattern leaks out to haunt other zones of the image. The interaction between finicky wood grain and more casual drips, sharp shadows, and the patina of banal habit rendered strange: All of this suggests a promising painter, finely attuned to her medium in both its substance and whim.