Critics’ Picks

Vivian Greven, Qulla I, 2020, oil and acrylic on canvas, 19 1/2 x 15".

Vivian Greven, Qulla I, 2020, oil and acrylic on canvas, 19 1/2 x 15".


Vivian Greven

Palais Stut-ter-home market-place 1
November 21, 2020–May 30, 2021

“Apple,” the title of Vivian Greven’s latest exhibition, evokes a neat range of associations, from the Tree of Knowledge, to William Tell’s arrow, to the computer brand. If the fifteen paintings here recall ancient Greek statuary in their depictions of smoothly modeled nudes, their finely glazed shapes and electric sheen also suggest the inhabitants of digital nonspace. Existing somewhere between Adonis and avatar, the figures never fully register as flesh. Although Greven is careful to avoid any expressive mark-making, the illusionistic spell is occasionally broken, as in APL (all works 2020) in which an array of Apple logos (minus the trademark bite) dots the canvas, or Ham II, whose elevated vertical represents an arrow through the throat. To heighten the artificiality of the environment, the gallery’s five rooms have been painted different pastels to match the dominant hue of the works on display.

Despite so much touch and skin, the work does not come across as particularly erotic. The result is balanced; what appears soft and attractive is at the same time cold and considered. The airy figures present themselves not just as an invented reality but also as a willing surface for projections, as they play their part in the daily traffic of gazes. The staged physicality unfolds most pointedly in the “Qulla” series, whose subjects graze their own marmoreal torsos only to find a fleck of white paint at their fingertips, a gesture suspended between erasure and creation.