After only a few years of art studies in her native Hungary and a year at the New York Studio School under her belt, Rita Ackermann became a darling of the downtown art scene in the 1990s with depictions of partying nymphets. Since then, she’s shown at major galleries and museums around the world.
Her latest one-person exhibition—her first at Hauser & Wirth New York—follows a 2010 collaboration with filmmaker Harmony Korine at the Swiss Institute, a 2011 survey at the Ludwig Museum in Budapest and a 2012 retrospective at Miami’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Here, Ackermann presents 17 powerful abstracted paintings on paper and canvas from the past three years.
This body of work results from Ackermann’s decision to use the floor as her easel, a move prompted by her cleaning up a paint spill in her studio one day. The pieces were made with a recipe that includes poured and sprayed pigments, gestural brushstrokes, outlines in oil stick and charcoal, and textures created with sand, modeling paste and rabbit-skin glue.
Negative Muscle, the massive painting which the artist calls her “touchstone,” presents a ghostly figure blurred by a storm of painterly flourishes. The five large canvases from the series “Fire by Days, Blues” offer faint views of skulls morphing into a sexually ambiguous torsos through sensuous washes of blue pigment. Two images of profiles formed by stains seeping through the canvas from the back top things off. It’s a testament to Ackermann’s artistry that a simple accident led to this show, which pushes her otherworldly vision to new heights.—Paul Laster