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20110612073651-10 20110612094027-shroudanemone 20110612093737-stripedheadhair 20110612092821-20110612082418-10_g 20110612092641-20110612082157-propped 20110612073250-8 20110612071911-1 20110612072124-2 20110612072315-3
'rak'rüm (noun);
the back room of an art gallery
where artists and art lovers hang
20110612075536-niffenegger
Chrome Domed , Rachel NiffeneggerRachel Niffenegger, Chrome Domed ,
2009, Acrylic, ink, fabric, tape and ash, 12” x 18” x 6”
© Western Exhibitions
Shroud (Anemone Eye), Rachel NiffeneggerRachel Niffenegger, Shroud (Anemone Eye),
2011, Watercolor, acrylic, spray-paint, plaster and mixed media on fabric on paper, 26" x 18"
© Courtesy Western Exhibitions
Striped Head Hair with Tied X, Rachel NiffeneggerRachel Niffenegger,
Striped Head Hair with Tied X,
2011, Watercolor, acrylic, plaster, paper, tape, wood, wig, polystyrene, spraypaint and string, 38" h x 32" w x 10" d
© Courtesy Western Exhibitions
Gnarled Tape Head with Wet Tongue, Rachel NiffeneggerRachel Niffenegger,
Gnarled Tape Head with Wet Tongue,
2010, watercolor, acrylic, spraypaint, paper, tape, polystyrene, found object, 29” x 25” 16”
© Courtesy Western Exhibitions
Propped Planter Bust, Rachel NiffeneggerRachel Niffenegger, Propped Planter Bust,
2011, Watercolor, acrylic, fabric, plaster, plastic, string, polystyrene, tape and paper, 36"h x 21"w x 10"d
© Courtesy Western Exhibitions
Footed Crust Head on a Long Neck, Rachel NiffeneggerRachel Niffenegger,
Footed Crust Head on a Long Neck,
2011, Watercolor, acrylic, plaster, paper, tape, wood, fabric, polystyrene, ash, dust and concrete on metal and plexiglass pedestall with light, 63" h x 17" w x 12" d
© Western Exhibitions
Rubescent Chain Goon, Rachel NiffeneggerRachel Niffenegger, Rubescent Chain Goon,
2010, Watercolor, acrylic, gouache and spray-paint on paper, 30” x 22”
© Western Exhibitions
Fake David Defiled and Honored, Rachel NiffeneggerRachel Niffenegger,
Fake David Defiled and Honored,
2010 , watercolor, acrylic, paper, tape, polystyrene, ash, found object, and hot glue , Bust: 17” x 12” x 11” Pedestal: 53” x 16” x 19”
© Western Exhibitions
Sunset with Scabbed Veil , Rachel NiffeneggerRachel Niffenegger, Sunset with Scabbed Veil ,
2011 , Watercolor, acrylic, plaster, dyed fabric, polystyrene, tacks and shower curtain, 82"h x 30"w x 8"d
© Western Exhibitions
Ponytail Panic , Rachel NiffeneggerRachel Niffenegger, Ponytail Panic ,
2011, Plaster, acrylic and wig , 11"h x 8" x 10"d
© Western Exhibitions
Poked and Stained , Rachel NiffeneggerRachel Niffenegger, Poked and Stained ,
2011 , Dyed fabric and polystyrene , 16"h x 13"w x 19"d
© Western Exhibitions
Crackled Sherbet Blood Nose , Rachel NiffeneggerRachel Niffenegger, Crackled Sherbet Blood Nose ,
2010, Watercolor, acrylic, gouache and spray-paint on paper , 301⁄2” x 221⁄2”, 34” x 27” framed
© Western Exhibitions
Shroud (Droopy Dirt Beard) , Rachel NiffeneggerRachel Niffenegger, Shroud (Droopy Dirt Beard) ,
2011, Watercolor, acrylic, spray-paint, plaster and mixed media on fabric on paper , 32" x 22"
© Western Exhibitions
Untitled Head (Gold Teeth with Fur), Rachel NiffeneggerRachel Niffenegger,
Untitled Head (Gold Teeth with Fur),
2009, Acrylic, ink, hot-glue, spray-paint, paper, tape, plaster, wood, hair and fur, and found objects, 36”x24”x12”
© Western Exhibitions
Deranged, Permed Tongue Biter, Rachel NiffeneggerRachel Niffenegger,
Deranged, Permed Tongue Biter,
2010, Watercolor, acrylic, gouache, spray-paint and collage on paper , 30” x 22”
© Western Exhibitions
Untitled Arm (Tricotillomania) , Rachel NiffeneggerRachel Niffenegger,
Untitled Arm (Tricotillomania) ,
2009, Watercolor, acrylic, paper, tape, plaster, latex, hair and fabric, 30”x8”x4”
© Western Exhibitions
, Rachel NiffeneggerRachel Niffenegger
© Courtesy of the artist and Western Exhibitions
, Rachel NiffeneggerRachel Niffenegger
© Rachel Niffenegger
, Rachel NiffeneggerRachel Niffenegger
© courtesy of the artist
, Rachel NiffeneggerRachel Niffenegger
© Rachel Niffenegger
, Rachel NiffeneggerRachel Niffenegger
© Rachel Niffenegger
, Rachel NiffeneggerRachel Niffenegger
© Rachel Niffenegger
, Rachel NiffeneggerRachel Niffenegger
© Rachel Niffenegger
Shroud (Etiolated Shred and Symbol), Rachel NiffeneggerRachel Niffenegger,
Shroud (Etiolated Shred and Symbol),
2012, Watercolor, acrylic, spray paint, fabric, paper, tape, wood, concrete, plaster and studio debris, 96 x 48 x 4 inches
© Image courtesy of Western Exhibitions and Hyde Park Art Center
, Rachel NiffeneggerRachel Niffenegger
© Courtesy of the artist and Western Exhibitions
Chicago Magazine named Rachel Niffenegger Chicago’s best emerging artist in 2010 and New City named her one of “Chicago’s Next Generation of Image Makers” in 2010, this after naming her the “Best Painter Under 25” in 2009. She currently has a two person show with Paul Nudd up at Western Exhibitions in Chicago  and has been included in exhibitions at Ceri Hand Gallery in Liverpool, England and in Chic...[more]


RackRoom
Interview with Rachel Niffenegger

Chicago: June, 2011 - Rachel Niffenegger made a name for herself in the late twenty aughts painting beaten up, violently rendered heads in grey and pink inks and oranges on paper. Since then, she’s entered Northwestern’s Masters of Fine Arts Program and has brought her figuration off the page and into space, while smoothly strengthening her work’s connection to Chicago’s history of painting people with body problems. For Niffenegger, those problems can be pretty severe, even severed - dead and crispy, but uniquely elegant.

Rachel Niffenegger,  Crackled Sherbet Blood Nose, 2010, watercolor, acrylic, gouache and spray-paint on paper, 30 1/2” x 22 1/2”, 34” x 27” framed; Courtesy Western Exhibitions


Steve Ruiz:  Your tumblr is gross, but I think it makes a great companion to your practice and I have been following for a while now. The Internet in general and tumblr in particular is full of brutal creepy pictures, and you share some good ones. Is this where your interest in violent figuration started?

Rachel Niffenegger: For me, using figuration and depicting the body in distress has always been the most logical way to talk about my experience, psychological state and fear. In my early work the images always came from an internal and intuitive process, and while I still use this process there is a lot more collecting and looking at the ways society respresents horror and death. RRRZZZNNN is part of a more extensive visual catalog that I chose to make public as it began to have more influence on my work. It is also a way to experiment with more jarring juxtapostions than I am able to in my sculptures at the moment. In the images on the tumblr I am less interested in graphic displays of violence than I am in how the cheesy plastic body changes and is charged by the real and visceral.

SR: What is your material selection process like? Some of your work uses fairly unconventional items, like false teeth and eyeballs. Do you keep a collection in the studio, or do you seek those types of items out for particular pieces?

Rachel Niffenegger, Striped Head Hair with Tied X, 2011, watercolor, acrylic, plaster, paper, tape, wood, wig, polystyrene, spraypaint and string, 38" h x 32" w x 10" d;  Courtesy Western Exhibitions


RN: The materials I use are rooted in painting and a regurgitation of past works combined with found objects. The sculptures typically start out with a base of crumpled paper bound with tape and then I add layers of watercolor, acrylic, and plaster with other objects embedded. I first began using the teeth and fake body parts to create an uncanny juxtaposition with the more formless bodies I am constructing. Now, most of the new work is tied to a pile that I have in the studio made up of torn up sculptures and paintings, strips of fabric, hair, latex peelings, string, wire, fake teeth, concrete and plaster dust, etc.  Work comes in and out of the pile at a fairly rapid pace and the bits are incorporated with acrylic mediums to get the gritty, mottled skin effect you can see in a lot of the work.

SR: You made a jump from painting to painterly sculpture a few years ago. With your recent work, and especially with the introduction of the stained drapery elements in some of your latest pieces, it seems like you're looping back around to incorporate two dimensional surfaces. Do you find the distinction between painting and sculpture useful when making your work? Is it something you consider?

Rachel Niffenegger, Shroud (Anemone Eye), 2011, Watercolor, acrylic, spray-paint, plaster and mixed media on fabric on paper, 26" x 18"; Courtesy Western Exhibitions


RN: I started incorporating objects in the beginning of the shift as both a formal tool and a way to solve compositional problems. Now the fact that they are objects with an emphasis on painting is much more important to the content of the work. Sculpture has physicality and gravity and painting has texture, color and wetness. For me, the combination of the two is used to work through ideas of perforation, surface, skin and what is beneath it, formlessness and the way things emerge from and go back into the ground or the plane. The cloth and shroud pieces are being used as ways to make and talk about painting as a trace of an object and for me to more closely knit the two together.

SR: You currently have a show up at Western Exhibitions with Paul Nudd. I love the pairing, as you both are coming at this distressed figure from opposite angles: your works as displays of the body affected by death - burnt, decayed, and rotten - and his as displays of the body afflicted with life overgrown, infected, parasitical. How long have you known Paul's work?

RN: I think the first time I saw Paul's work was at a small independent booth he had at Art Chicago in 2004 or 2005. He had all of these small insect and worm drawings covering the booth, swarming around him. I have admired the obsessiveness in which he works since then. We have been showing together in several group shows over the past six months so it is nice that our work now has the opportunity to have a more intimate conversation.

SR: Have you ever seen a dead body?

RN: Yes, but only shortly after death or embalmed. Though, I'm not as much interested in real, visceral death and gore as much as the psychology around it.


ArtSlant would like to thank Rachel Niffenegger for her assistance in making this interview possible.

--Steve Ruiz

(Image: Rachel Niffenegger's personal photo by Sarah Trigg)

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