Critics’ Picks

Zwischenhalt (Stopover), 2006.

Chicago

Ulf Puder

Kavi Gupta Gallery | Elizabeth St
219 N Elizabeth Street
May 19–June 24

Ulf Puder emerged postreunification in Leipzig; this exhibition, his first in the US, frames and underscores his reliance on the traditional mechanics of figurative painting in order to present landscapes rendered with an exquisite, densely wound pictorial logic. Four large-scale canvases depict derailed trains turned into makeshift housing units, floating platforms, drifting ferry-docks, and stranded camper-trailers, all shown from above. Both surreal and purgatorial, these landscapes taken together suggest not doomsday itself but rather a postdisaster frieze; these are the bright houses, train cars, and campers deserted after floods and derailments. These structures unfold above drab, green-gray, vaguely rendered grounds and both contrast and augment the torqued geometry at play within Puder’s oeuvre. In Zwischenhalt (Stopover), 2006, a zigzag of train spins out behind a central swatch of orange that comprises the roof of the nearest car; it serves as the disaster’s vortex and pictorial anchor. Similarly, in Camping, 2006, a trailer awkwardly tilts around the central image of a pool slide emerging from a hazy cabin interior. These works engender a sense of quietness similar to that present in the work of many of the Leipzig painters now gaining widespread recognition. Puder, often referred to as the elder statesman of this group, here delivers paintings that should merit him as much attention as his younger, higher-profile colleagues.