new-york

Ellen Gronemeyer, Gambling Caviar, 2012, oil on canvas, 37 1/2 x 45".

Ellen Gronemeyer

Kimmerich

Ellen Gronemeyer, Gambling Caviar, 2012, oil on canvas, 37 1/2 x 45".

Is that a grin or a rictus? The kooky, bug-eyed faces that leer from the eighteen oil paintings in this exhibition raise the question more than once. Ellen Gronemeyer’s first solo exhibition in New York was titled with the German word Affentheater, or “ape theater,” the name for traveling shows popular in the second half of the nineteenth century in which trained monkeys were dressed in human clothes and made to perform acrobatics and imitate human behavior. Accordingly, the cartoonlike figures in her paintings imply discomfort, as if they had been painfully wrenched into their circumstances of vaudevillian hilarity.

A handful of works appear to directly invoke the bawdy burlesques of the show’s title. In comme ci comme ça, 2012, four caricatures of primates—tongues lolling, limbs flailing—arranged themselves in an impossible configuration, their twisting limbs and torsos

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