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Anne Imhof and Eliza Douglas Balance Formality and Freedom in Their New Collaborations

Installation view, Galerie Buchholz New York, 2017, courtesy Galerie Buchholz

Eliza Douglas Anne Imhof
September 9-October 21st
Galerie Buchholz NYC
17 East 82nd Street
New York NY 10028


Eliza Douglas and Anne Imhof currently have an exhibition of new work—both collaborative and solo—on view at Galerie Buchholz in New York. 

Anne Imhof is currently dazzling Venice and the international art world as the German representative at the 2017 Biennale (on view through November 26th). She has mounted a powerful performance piece, transforming the German pavilion by inserting raised glass floors and partitions under and over which a crew, including Eliza Douglas, slither and creep and crawl and lurch and pose, often in slow motion, to the sound of loud music. For this effort she was the recipient of the prestigious Golden Lion Award for Best National Participation. No stranger to prizes, Imhof is also the recipient of the Absolut Art Award, the Nationalgalerie Berlin award, MOMA PS1 Annual Exhibition Fund award, and the Graduation Prize for 2012 from the Staedelschule, in Frankfurt, Germany, among others.

Born in 1978 in the university town of Giessen, just north of Frankfurt, Anne Imhof studied first at the Design School in Offenbach (2000-03), and later at the Staedelschule art school in Frankfurt (2008-12). For many years she worked at the renowned nightclub Robert Johnson, in Offenbach, a town across the river from Frankfurt. Eliza Douglas was born in 1984, somewhere in the USA, and received a BFA in Film Studies from Bard College in 2007. From 2015-17 she studied at the Staedelschule in Frankfurt, Germany. She has also worked with the musicians Devendra Banhart and Antony and the Johnsons, and more recently as a model for the Balenciaga fashion house.

Originally established in Cologne, Germany, in the mid 1980s, Galerie Buchholz expanded to Berlin in 2008, and to New York in 2015. The gallery is located a short half block from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, on the parlor floor of a charming brownstone.  

One enters the gallery spaces almost sideways, into a passageway in which a tight row of canvases line one wall from floor to ceiling. This series of tall, pristine, bright white canvases have thickly lined black signatures painted on them. They are the superimposed scrawled signatures of both artists, in many variations, including backwards and upside down. Enlarged to fit the canvas, they are sometimes so large as to be only partially legible. Sometimes it’s both first and last names intertwined, sometimes just first. This motif of signatures scrawled on canvas is carried forward throughout the exhibition. 

On the other side of this initial corridor, across from the signatures, is a large collaborative work showing a series of repetitive images of Douglas screen-printed in a row along the top half of the canvas, and in a partial row below. This too has large intertwined upright and upside down signatures of both artists scrawled across it. (As well, one can see the name Anne tattooed above Douglas’s left breast. The two artists are affianced.)

Eliza Douglas Anne Imhof, Signature VII (Eliza), 2017, silkscreen and oil on canvas, 190 x 300 x 2.5 cm; Galerie Buchholz New York, 2017, courtesy Galerie Buchholz

At the end wall of this entry space is a work on enameled aluminum--half black, half white--attributed to Imhof. There appear to be scratches on it in faintly Twomblyesque style. I was told this refers to keying cars—that nasty thing that sometimes happens when you park in public and aren’t around. A quick look to the left, and there is another scratched enamel surface—all black background and more elaborate scratch work. And next to it, another.  

Installation view, Galerie Buchholz New York, 2017, courtesy Galerie Buchholz

In the somewhat larger main exhibition space, the walls open up to a wider assortment of works by both artists, either in combination or on their own. In her rather brief career as a visual artist—2016-17—Douglas has developed a signature painting style which includes meticulously painted floating hands or feet, with or without shoes, then connected by loosely painted single brushstroke lines with no visible body in between. These works too are painted on large pristine white canvases. Again, the hanging is dense, canvases hung tightly together, lined up like soldiers.  

Installation view, Galerie Buchholz New York, 2017, courtesy Galerie Buchholz

Again we see more variations on the oversize signatures, some of them with smaller—more handwritten size—signatures written inside of spaces in the scrawl—tags within tags. And more of the enameled panels with scratchings, including one with a bright blue surface—a rare glimpse of color.

Installation view, Galerie Buchholz New York, 2017, courtesy Galerie Buchholz

Then, in between, here and there, one spies a drawing, colorful and looking messy and free. These works act as some kind of relief from all the otherwise stark and austere formality of most of the show, recalling someone just letting loose and being on earth. In this spirit, there is another collaboration, snuggled between a couple of very large signature works—a colorful gestural abstract canvas whose top half has a work on paper attached to it. The image of an octopus-like figure emerges, a repeating motif in many of the smaller works on paper or canvas by Imhof. Once again, these pieces seem to offer relief from the imposing formality of the signatures and from the other work on display.  

Installation views, Galerie Buchholz New York, 2017, courtesy Galerie Buchholz

The flow of these works continues into the third and back room, where the offices start, offering variations on the basic themes: signatures, collaborations, an image (always the same) of Douglas screen-printed onto a canvas, this time in red.

Installation view, Galerie Buchholz New York, 2017, courtesy Galerie Buchholz 

Eliza Douglas Anne Imhof, Signature XIII (Eliza) 2017; Galerie Buchholz New York, 2017, courtesy Galerie Buchholz

There is, however, an exception to this fairly rigid patter: at the very end, a small, rather modest, representational and finely detailed pencil drawing by Douglas, of Imhof, taken from a photograph. Imhof is seen in a domestic setting, seemingly late at night, sitting across from the viewer at a table strewn with empty soda bottles, and with a spiral staircase in the background. She is holding her head in her right hand, gazing wearily towards the viewer. 

Eliza Douglas, Protected from the Sun, 2017, graphite on paper 30 x 23 cm, Galerie Buchholz New York, 2017, courtesy Galerie Buchholz

Douglas and Imhof's collaboration is relatively recent, and besides the predominant performance work, this is their first exhibition together. Both artists claim that their real work is as painters in the studio .For those of us who haven’t had the opportunity to see their previous performances, it would be interesting to see more of that in this fair city …  WM

Ingrid Dinter

Ingrid Dinter is an independent curator and sometime writer, based in New York City. She was the owner of Dinter Fine Art, a gallery in Chelsea, from 2004 to 2009. Besides curating 35 exhibitions at the gallery, she also curated “Consider The Oyster” at Graham & Sons (2010) and “Summer Salt” at The Proposition (2011), as well as an ongoing artists film program called “Bohemian Nights”, shown at various venues including the Gershwin Hotel (New York City), The Emerald Tablet (San Francisco), and at IMC LAB (New York).




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