Christoph Ruckhäberle has a distinctive voice among painters of his generation, creating tightly composed figurative scenes that balance the peculiar and the familiar with a detached reverence of nostalgia. For his first solo show at ZieherSmith (and his first in New York since 2009), the artist presents eight paintings whose sunny pastoral and simple interior settings feature languorous women in various states of indolent indifference. They are both performer and audience, dancing, squatting, tangled and diffuse; supple limbs and striped textiles splay out as might proscenium curtains. With not a morsel of food in sight, the Frühstück im Freien or “breakfast outdoors” (a play itself on the French for “Luncheon on the Grass”) is not an actual meal, but the dress rehearsal for such pageantry unfolding. Summoning a host of artistic influences, these are well-honed, brightly color blocked improvisations on the famous Éduoard Manet original (1862-63), bringing to mind the artist’s quote from 2005: “Sometimes I suspect myself of trying to paint a whole Louvre of my own. Almost like I have to treat every subject ever treated in art history.”
Critic Roberta Smith has also noted Ruckhäberle’s ability to synthesize history to his own contemporary advantage: “Mr. Ruckhäberle seems to approach painting as an open book, of which any page can be ripped out, as long as it is used in, and not simply pasted to, the present” (The New York Times, April 7, 2006)
Ruckhäberle studied at CalArts in Valencia, California and Hochschule für Grafik und Buckhunst in Leipzig, Germany. Various solo exhibitions include those at Campoli Presti, London; Galerie Christian Ehrentraut, Berlin; Galerie Kleindienst, Leipzig; Galleri Nicolai Wallner, Copenhagen; Sorry We’re Closed, Brussels; and the Migros Museum, Zurich, among others. His work can be found in collections including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Rubell Family Collection, Miami; The Saatchi Collection, London; and the Essl Museum, Vienna. Ruckhäberle lives and works in Leipzig, Germany where he is publisher of Lubok Verlag and is co-principal in the cinema, Luru-Kino.