Michaela Eichwald, "Ergriffenes Dasein: Artist Writer Mentalist"

Ahrtal

Ahrtal Photograph: Courtesy Reena Spaulings Fine Art

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>5/5

From making “bad” painting to eschewing a signature style, artists of the past 30 years have adopted a variety of strategies for examining art’s production and consumption. In her impressive New York debut, Cologne-based Michaela Eichwald adds to these tactics the conceit of artist as medium, removing herself as the agent of her own work.

The show includes altered readymades, works on paper, sculptures and paintings, variously huddled together on walls, windowsills and even hanging by a thread from the ceiling. Eichwald employs a disorienting array of materials and methods to convey snatches of narrative, slivers of thought and the pentimenti of influences—which may or may not include Marcel Broodthaers, Man Ray, Sigmar Polke and Dieter Roth.

The past flickers through her work, most notably in a small collection of metal tchotchkes rescued from an incinerator. The paintings, with their coatings of boat varnish, crude figuration and occasional collage elements, are executed in a palette of nail-polish purples, piss-stain yellows and institutional greens. Perhaps the strongest pieces here are sculptures made by pouring resin into bags and bottles, in whose frozen depths lurk cooked mussels, hair elastics and plastic coffee-cream containers, among other objects

Far from simply being coy, Eichwald’s approach succeeds in holding both history and the marketplace in abeyance. That such a strategy can quickly become a style is evident in the art currently on view at both the Whitney and the New Museum. Nevertheless, despite its fugitive beauty and its seemingly naive execution, Eichwald’s work remains curiously tough and indigestible.

—Anne Doran

Reena Spaulings Fine Art, through Apr 27, 2008