THE BODY PAINTS WHAT IT FEELS: FROM PAGE 35
The viewer is engaged in direct, intimate play-by-plays through the paintings’ physical presence and implied narratives.
A cycle of paintings from 2003- 2004 depicts exchanges between a male and a female character. “Adam and Eve in Underwear (Adam und Eva in Unterwäsche)” catches the couple entangled on the floor, each bare down to their waists. Elbows and hips press into crotches. But their libidos seem depleted, as if this is a fond but regretful memory. Similarly, in the 2006 “Sleeping Men (Schlafende Männer),” sensuous male nudes lie about and fold onto themselves, but not without a lingering sense of worry.
Paintings such as these made me ache. Slightly older paintings, one floor higher, interplay layered swaths of juicy color against haloes of off-white stains, setting the characters into slightly more surreal situations. The ashen head with outstretched tongue lying beside a table of desserts in “Madonna of the Pastries” is one of the many stunning, visual jolts.
More abstract are the paintings “Children as Warriors” and the compositionally Rubenesque “The Dream Couple (Das Traumpaar).” The figures here are reduced to angular, biomorphic shapes that overlap and poke (sexually) at one another.
These cartoon-like characters repeat in Lassnig’s films like 1972’s Shapes. I cannot overemphasize the hilarious, psychosexually direct qualities that are found in most of her films. Figures with jagged, drill-like points or basket-like orifices extending from their waists quiver and interact with one another in a series of gender-emphasized melodramas. From these films, the sense of humor in the rest of the exhibition becomes evident.
This exhibition boldly showcases an accomplished artist who manages to make painting thoroughly contemporary. Lassnig, like many important women artists of her age, has gone largely unappreciated for too long. Such a powerful exhibition of work will do a world of good in righting this historical discrepancy.