Irene Grundel

Elisabeth Kaufmann

Since 1990 Irene Grundel has limited her drawings and paintings to three themes: the stone, the horn, and the bird. Some of her recent works include plaster sculptures that incorporate found objects, but still each theme is treated almost monochromatically: the bird appears in a quasi-romantic blue environment, the horn is usually red, and the stones are placed on an earth-toned ground. For this show, Grundel differentiated each theme in a particular space, thereby creating three different experiential zones. At first, the viewer entered a brown zone, indicating an original, unmitigated sense of spirituality. This brown zone displayed works in which actual stones were affixed to canvases that had been first brightly painted, then painted over with an earth-toned color. Since the stones were mounted with plaster, they sometimes fell off, exposing the bright underpainting and evoking the faceting of a brilliant jewel.

After the brown zone, one entered the red zone, which was filled with works dealing with the horn. This space was charged with death and violence, and also because of the phallic form of the horn, with erotic tension. The horns can appear as either plaster objects or trophies, with the appropriate animal on a red ground. Through the degree of abstraction Grundel employs, these pictures gained a magical effect.

Finally, in the basement, one encountered the blue zone of the bird. These bird creatures resembled owls with outstretched wings, but in contrast to the other themes, they seemed animated, returning the viewer’s gaze and engaging in an almost dramatic dialogue. The bird marked the synthesis and transcendence of the previous two levels; it offered a liberating sense of freedom. But Grundel’s use of the bird theme—no matter how banal or well-known it may seem—never appeared naive. The illusion of the picture was constantly interrupted by the irony of the blue plaster objects, with their distorted, bent wings that seemed to embrace the space. The floor was an ultramarine color, giving the impression that a bird had landed and that some pigment had fallen off its wings.

In this new series, Grundel wavers—despite or perhaps because of the spiritual content of her works—between the remains of a disappearing nature and the amenities of civilization, between savoring the mass media and choosing the loneliness of contemplation. She uses esthetic means to achieve ethical values and offers us a comprehensive concept of harmony as a possible solution to today’s conflicts.

Anne Krauter

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.