Vienna

Elke Silvia Krystufek, NOT MY JUSTICE, 2019, acrylic and ink on canvas, 55 1⁄8 × 70 7⁄8".

Elke Silvia Krystufek, NOT MY JUSTICE, 2019, acrylic and ink on canvas, 55 1⁄8 × 70 7⁄8".

Elke Silvia Krystufek

Croy Nielsen

Elke Krystufek is back! Though from now on, she’s Elke Silvia Krystufek. For many years, she was the Austrian art scene’s most dependable bad girl. That art and life are inextricably intertwined was her credo, so she took us along as she tore through her private life. She expertly toyed with our voyeurism in her spectacular and scandalous early performances and shocked her audiences with trashy videos and risqué selfies. And she painted irresistibly alluring portraits that put us on notice that women are the better painters after all. A combative debater on female self-representation, porn, narcissism, Andy Warhol, and other topics, she liked to express her views in handwritten notes that sprawled across her canvases and appeared on theater stages and in artist’s books; one, from 2017, bore the throwaway title My Bestseller, Part I.

Recently, however, hearing so little from an artist who used to serve herself up to the public in overdoses, distraught gallery staff whispered that she had decided not to make new artwork, instead honing her use of archival techniques and sending “historic” pieces from her inventory to exhibitions. Luckily, all is well again: Krystufek is back at work and doing shows, too. Her first show with Croy Nielsen, “30 Years—No Overview,” was timed to coincide with the anniversary of her first step into the limelight, when she was Arnulf Rainer’s student at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. “Sie betreten die Akademie” (You Are Entering the Academy), as the 1989 presentation was called, established her reputation as a jaded and utterly unashamed obsessive.

Visitors arriving for the opening of her new exhibition were welcomed by a chipper artist posing as a living sculpture dressed in glossy pink and wearing a curly purple wig. But if Krystufek feels the grim afflictions of advancing age, you wouldn’t have known it. A quick comparison between early canvases such as Vater (Father), 1991, or If I Paint, 1989, and recent ones such as Not My Government or NOT MY JUSTICE, both 2019, seemed to confirm her stated belief that “you don’t get better as a painter.” If you’ve got the chops, you’ve got them, and practice, it turns out, counts for little.

Austrian domestic politics was one subject: Störung der Nachtruhe der Republik? (Disturbing the Nighttime Peace of the Republic?), 2018, and Anti Black-Blue, 2019, targeted the disgraceful alliances that rule the country. The judiciary took a hit as well, with hints at high-profile crimes—including money laundering, kidnapping, and murder—that remain unsolved. The architect Otto Wagner, who appeared in several variations, was a softer topic, famous in Austria as the “father of modernism,” but less interesting than a private eye called Martin Ulm, whom Krystufek hired to tail her and take professional pictures. We’ll see where that Acconciesque pas de deux goes. For now, a large-format painting (Features, 2019) stands as documentation of their collaboration. And the show wouldn’t have been complete without a quick jab at Instagram (according to some, the most pernicious, evil, and fucked-up app of all times): Voilà, 2019.

Masks, wigs, veils, and costumes are still key elements in Krystufek’s sculptural work, as seen in the assemblage Otherlies (London, NY, Abu Dhabi, Tokyo a.s.o.), 2019. Those and some others of the title—Jackie Chan, Mick Jagger, and Alexander McQueen among them—were featured on buttons, decorative pins, tights, and a knitted cardigan, all hung over a chair placed on top of an Italian souvenir cloth sporting an image of Marilyn Monroe. A group of wall-mounted, rectangular painter’s palettes ran through the exhibition. Krystufek cut them from the doors of a lacquered wooden cabinet and used them only sparingly to mix colors on. Small compositions resulted: The paint developed a fantastic luminosity on the glossy surface, enhanced here and there by a rhinestone. These works, all 2019, were titled after artists Krystufek likes: Lassnig, Robert Longo, Pettibon, Rothko, Tuymans. Her connection to these artists is evident; everyone will be able to think of others who could be added to the wide-ranging list.

Translated from German by Gerrit Jackson.