Eichner’s paintings are outside-in and inside-out at once. While the press for this young-ish, Berlin-based painter’s solo exhibition at CFA notes that his latest works signal a departure from content based on interiors, there’s little suggesting anything concretely discerning inside from out. Or, for that matter, content from form. OK, Animal, Vegetable and Mineral – we do find all of them here. Just none of them necessarily correspond to their own names.
But before all my prattle about contentformmatter, first, style. Viewing the works, my internal image-search engine was turning up Philip Guston, Jean-Michel Basquiat, R.B. Kitaj, Cy Twombly, Jean Dubuffet, and at a certain moment even the satirical drawings of George Grosz. (Lots of the art historical Abstract- and Neo-expressionist boys’ club with their brilliant liquids and scratches, no?)
I do hate this name game, but the matching impulse is almost involuntary when a (male) artist of any generation chooses to express himself with paint or paint-ish media on canvas. But in any case, Eichner doesn’t seem to have too much of a strict protocol when it comes to painting itself (media can include ink, gouche, and acrylics) or any excessive evidence of gunning for the old-school art history books, alphabetized between Dubuffet and Guston, though I could be wrong about that. But being new to the artist (and it seems, the artist being relatively new to the art world), I found the lack of a bombardment of artist statements and PR about him refreshing. Unlike the proto-hipster art of Dash Snow exhibited on the floor just above him at CFA, there were no tricked out meta-biographies here. No. Here I could just enjoy good painting from an art school graduate (of the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, no less, the alma mater of other artboys Richter, Beuys, Demand, and Gursky): saturated but un-pretentious color, pleasing compositions, narratives just vague but episodic enough to invite reflection, and forms teasing figurative from abstract. Unsentimental commentary through grotesquerie never edges into the overwrought and derivative or the steely and detached. A classic language of contemporary painting, here in the almost 2000-teens, and no rock ‘n roll star image to have to write into it. Thank you, Mr. Eichner! OK, so maybe there’s no challenging the question here – it’s “just” painting – but does it matter?
Marcel Eichner, Das blaue lange mit der Gieskanne, 2011, acrylic, gouache, and ink on canvas, 230 x 125 cm / 90 ½ x 49 ¼”; Photo credit: Jochen Littkemann / Courtesy of the artist and Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin
So, back to content, or lack thereof, and the issue of inside-out-ness / outside-in-ness. Some examples: That Das blaue lange mit der Gieskanne (2011) (trans. The blue long one with the watering can) has a figure hovering over a possible landscape etched in blue, and forms that look like planets, does not necessarily the Blau a sky make. The figure (if we could call it that) seems to be “watering” with his or her watering can somewhere in between inside and outside. Corners of the canvas picture what could be the tired contours of an apartment or studio that hasn’t been left for a while; the landscape and sky beckon from outside a window. It is melancholy and proactive at once, if not slightly erotic. It evokes a confused longing mixed with paralysis, a dismembered face that cannot decide for life or death, but keeps “watering the plants,” nonetheless.
Marcel Eichner, gelb grün lang mit Kuh und Mensch, 2011, acrylic, gouache, and ink on canvas, 125 x 235 cm / 49 ¼ x 92 ½”; Photo credit: Jochen Littkemann / Courtesy of the artist and Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin
Gelb grün lang mit Kuh und Mensch (2011) (Yellow green long with cow and person) is one that might have convinced CFA’s people to speak of exteriors; if there is “cow” and “green” in the title, mustn’t it be a landscape? Yet as in many of the other paintings, a box in the middle of (what is only arguably) a horizon recalls a window or a picture-frame on a wall. Meanwhile the human-like figure is connected by the arm with the cow-like figure – the person’s other arm seems to be clutching a knife. A tiny fish swims nearby in the ink-black, and we are reminded that everything is becoming in the Deleuzian sense… The man becomes a cow while the cow becomes a man, inside is becoming outside, and content is becoming form.
That is, there’s certainly a story here. As with all Eichner’s paintings in this exhibition, it just can’t necessarily be told in words. A true inside-out language of painting.
(Image on top: Marcel Eichner, Narr, 2011, acrylic, gouache, and ink on canvas, 160 x 120 cm / 63 x 47 ¼”; Photo credit: Jochen Littkemann / Courtesy of the artist and Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin)