Oil on canvas, 13 x 13 in., 33 x 33 cm
© the artist
Photo: Bill Orcutt, New York
Courtesy Jay Jopling / White Cube (London)
Inside the White Cube, Hoxton Square is pleased to present new paintings by Ellen Altfest in her first solo exhibition in the UK.
Altfest's work results from a meticulous, labour-intensive approach to the act of painting. Working within the traditional genres of nude and still life, and painted directly from life, the objects and models that the artist uses for her subjects receive equal attention. Altfest achieves a charged, sensuous surface with painstakingly delicate brushstrokes that examines every crack, crevice and spidery line of her subjects.
With echoes of Altfest's recent paintings of cactuses, plants and tumbleweeds, three new works depict gourds in various states of decay. With its well-defined contours and rich hues, the robust presence of the Green Gourd contrasts with the furrowed, weeping white, grey and brown surface of Rotting Gourd. Beside these singular compositions, the cornucopia of twelve squashes crowded on a wooden table in Gourds present an autumnal harvest display with all its attendant associations. Prolonged study and intense looking gives the subject an otherworldly presence, raising these humble, organic forms into palpable icons. In his catalogue essay Barry Schwabsky writes of "Tumbleweed" (2005): "when I look at this painting, I have the sensation of being able to perceive much more about what it shows than I would be able to perceive if I had the thing itself in front of me to look at directly."
The exhibition also features three male nudes, a departure for the artist. "The Penis" (2006) was first exhibited in "Men", a group show that Altfest curated in the summer of 2006. This intimate study of a male model emerged from Altfest's interest in the female artist's gaze - reversed onto the male nude. "The Butt" shows a large male figure from behind seated on a paint-splattered stool. The broad expanse of back and bottom are treated in the same manner as the stool, pipe and gourd. Altfest's depictions of a "Reclining Nude" or a "Sleeping Man" can be related to the naturalistic detailing of Albert Durer's drawings, the "hyperrealism" of early Chuck Close portraiture or the shocking intimacy of Gustave Courbet's "Origin of the World" (1866), yet she reinterprets her subject with a more neutral gaze. Schwabsky writes that this gaze "neither humanizes nor dehumanizes her motif. But her disinterestedness does not exclude love, since what she loves about her motif is neither its meaning nor its use but its perceptibility".
Ellen Altfest was born in 1970 in New York City, where she works and lives. She has participated in numerous group exhibitions, including "USA Today" at the Royal Academy of Art, London and "Men", a group exhibition she curated at I-20 Gallery in New York, in 2006.
A fully illustrated catalogue, with an essay by Barry Schwabsky, will accompany the exhibition.
Exhibition: 26 October - 24 November 2007
Gallery hours: Tues-Sat 10 am - 6 pm
Inside the White Cube
48 Hoxton Square
GB-London N1 6PB
Telephone +44 (0)20 7930 53 73
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