After missing a whole year of great exhibits, I finally made it down to the Katzen Center at American University, this past Saturday night, to see the opening of no fewer than five exhibits. The main draw for me was Life After Death: New Leipzig Paintings from the Rubell Family Collection, currently touring the country.
Where would these artists' careers be without the Rubell family? With such a large collection of big canvases, it’s also convenient that the family has their own museum, in Miami, to store and exhibit them.
I’ve been a Neo Rauch fan for a while, His compositions are inventive, with a little bit of mystery thrown in by way of multiple events happening on different levels within each painting. The few Rauch paintings, however, aren’t the strongest pieces in this gathering. His last outing at David Zwirner in May of last year was a better selection. The good thing here, is the opportunity to see him in context with his other East German cohorts.
Matthias Weischer’s paintings are large, heavily impastoed, ghostly interiors (shown above, probably the best painting in this show). Hanging directly across from his paintings are a long double row of small-framed drawings that I really enjoyed.
David Schnell’s imaginary landscapes are a bit menacing, but visually striking. Dealing with issues of the natural world vs. confinement? I like his scruffy paint handling. Christoph Ruckhäberle, has a wonderful small portrait, Woman With Pearl Necklace, that my date for the evening loved best. Christoph Ruckhäberle, who has a Balthus-on-steroids feel to his work, I remember from a strong show at Zach Feuer this past spring.
These are not the happiest of paintings. For these East Germans, although they are relatively young, the influence of the era of Soviet domination casts a shadow; but the Leipzig group has been a refreshing addition to the painting scene, especially figurative painting.
Also on view at the Katzen are Dresden-based painter Eberhard Havekost's paintings. He is also working through post-Cold War life/politics, using Soviet-style postmodernist architecture and design as a starting point. He manipulates photographic images and video clips to get his precise vision, altering color and format, and then he paints. It's a cold process for suitably cold, yet powerful paintings.
Mindy Weisel's fused-glass wall pieces are interesting but feel out of place here. It was difficult to view them in depth. On the third floor, "Althena Tacha: Small Wonders" is an exhibit by one of the pioneers of site-specific architectural sculpture. Tacha has had over 40 international commisions. That daunting process of securing a commission alone would make a great subject for lecture series.
A fitting complimentary exhibit to the painters is a set of 100 photographs depicting the Hungarian Revolution of 1956; a student demonstration that blossomed into a national uprising. We could use a little of that energy on campus today.
So if you're in the D.C. area and you haven't been to the Katzen Center, by all means go. Katzen director and all-around nice guy, Jack Rassmusen, his staff, and of course the generosity of the Katzen family have put together a great venue for visual art. The five exhibits will remain up through October 29th.
On another note, has anyone been mooned by Alexi Worth?