Critics’ Picks

Luxor, 2003.

Luxor, 2003.

Cologne

Silke Otto-Knapp

Galerie Buchholz | Cologne
Neven-DuMont-Straße 17
October 29–December 6, 2003

In her current show at Daniel Buchholz, London-based painter Silke Otto-Knapp presents her own take on a time-honored subject—the woman descending a staircase. In 25th Floor, 2003, which alludes to both Duchamp and Richter, barely clad showgirls negotiate the tiered risers of a Vegas stage. The artist's skill is such that it’s easy to imagine both of her predecessors perched on bar stools, enjoying the view, but Otto-Knapp doesn’t overburden herself with art history. Working from found photographs, she depicts (in addition to showgirls) blue-black copses of trees in the moonlight and cities twinkling on distant horizons. The paintings are small, minutely worked, and filled with fugitive nocturnal light delineated in streaks of water-soluble paint on thickly underpainted canvas. Up close, the surfaces reveal themselves to be slippery matrices of slashes and dots that owe something to post-Impressionist brushwork and something to pixelated computer screens. Viewed from a greater distance, they're no easier to pigeonhole. Otto-Knapp plays landscape as stage set and vice versa—her stairways are as vertiginous as mountains, while her exteriors have the hermetic look of artificial scenery. By maintaining this kind of ambiguity, she manages to nod to certain old-chestnut dichotomies (plein air versus atelier, for example) while remaining somehow outside the law.

Translated from German by Emily Speers Mears.