Adrian Ghenie: New Paintings
Violence, ambiguity, and the grotesque transcend from Ghenie’s monumental oil on canvas series on view at Pace Gallery in Chelsea. The Romanian artist combinatory style, coexisting abstraction with imagery, portraiture with disfiguration, reveals his critical re-telling of History, exposing the underside of formal Historical Fact as a story of Victors and narratives told by those in power. In a response to embedded power structures that hold captive the rights to writing our Story, Ghenie’s New Paintings retell the past through the multiple social, political and technological means of achieving a recent narrative, combining historical books, film stills and archives with his own imagination to eschew fact into a spectral fusion of personal and collective past-time memories.
His technique is art historically reminiscent of Francis Bacon’s screaming faces and Gerhard Richter’s textured canvases. His violent execution is mirrored in his violent imagery. Solitary, defaced figures stand amidst decomposing settings, with lost souls screaming in response to becoming captive to these collapsing environments. Ghenie’s subjects include ambiguous renderings of Charles Darwin and Adolph Hitler, equivocal but recognizable through titles or symbolic references (i.e., Hitler’s iconic mustache). In his “Pie Fight” series, Ghenie combines episodes of Nazi history with the vaudeville trope of pie fighting; muddling faces to oblivion, Ghenie reinterprets violent events of history into grotesque pastiche scenarios that turns History into its own parodied simulacrum. With Charles Darwin dyeing underneath a Roman Aqueduct, and Hitler bursting out into uncontrollable laughter confined within an aristocratic interior, Ghenie’s imagined history connects the father of evolution with the villainous dictator. One man accrediting ecological survival of the fittest, another man acting as the sole arbiter of natural selection, Ghenie’s history connects all Victors as people using their power for revolutionary change, whether for good or for evil.