Eric Fischl Curates a Top-Notch Show for Galerie St. Etienne's Viewing Room

July 15, 2020

The established contemporary artist Eric Fischl, known for his cinematic paintings of American suburbia, was approached by the historic Galerie St. Etienne, initially founded by Otto Kallir as the Neue Galerie in Vienna in 1923. Now operating in the United States, this art gallery decided to present the works from their notable inventory selected by Fischl under his curatorial concept titled Transitional Positions.

Namely, the artist conceived the idea amid the COVID-19 pandemic, shortly before New York City went into lockdown. The exhibition will be presented via the gallery’s online viewing room and will encompass both the works by Austrian and German artists such as Otto Dix, Max Beckmann, Gustav Klimt, George Grosz, Käthe Kollwitz, and Egon Schiele, and the works by contemporary artists such as Nicole Eisenman, Jenny Saville, Angela Dufresne, Ellen Berkenblit, Tracey Emin, Sullivan Giles, Chantal Joffe, Gladys Nilsson, Jennifer Packer, Ellen Phelan, and Joan Semmel, who respond to historical works.

Left: Otto Dix - Red-Haired Nude with Red Stockings (Red-Haired Girl), 1925. Watercolor, gouache and pencil on paper. Signed, dated and inscribed "349," lower right. Titled and inscribed "Rothaariges Mädchen/unverkäuflich" (Red-Haired Girl/not for sale), verso. Pencil sketch, verso. 20 1/4" x 12" (51.4 x 30.5 cm). Related to the 1930 paintings of the same subject (Löffler 1930.6). Pfäffle A 1925/2. / Right: Otto Mueller - Two Standing Girls, circa 1928. Gouache and charcoal on orange wove paper. Signed and with Otto Mueller estate stamp, verso. 26 1/8" x 19 1/4" (66.4 x 48.9 cm).

Articulating The Current Moment

Transitional Positions was formed as a reaction to ongoing socioeconomic shifts, the COVID-19 crisis, and the nationwide protests that neither at the beginning nor at the end of these.

To reflect these times of uncertainty, and the shackling feeling that change might not be going in our favor, Eric Fischl combines the works of the artists confronted with the similar challenges amid World War I.

The similarities in the approaches of the modernists and the contemporary artists in handling the application of the paint, line, and form, as well as the explorations of sexual, decadent, and subversive imagery, will be further unraveled with this exhibition. 

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner - Couple (Lovers), 1921. Woodcut on heavy off-white wove paper. Estate stamp and registration number

The Thematic Sections

The installment consists of four thematic sections that nicely summarized what Fischl encountered when it comes to the mentioned similarities and the ways different issues were and still are represented.

Starting with the first section called Circus of Life, the artist/curator tends to present, as he stated, images of chaotic, bizarrely imagined interactions.

Portraits: Self & Other offers the deliberation of an array of emotional and physical states that suggest the way artists observe, present, and articulate the matters of identity.

A similar exploration continues with the section titled The Female Body that will accentuate the objectification of the female body through the lens of what has been recognized as the male gaze.

Mother and Child will be the last section consisting of works that thematize this timeless subject.

Left: Erich Heckel - Young Girl, 1913. Woodcut on thin white Japan paper. Signed and dated, lower right, and titled, lower left. 10 1/4 x 6 3/4" (26 x 17.1 cm). Proof of the second state; before the edition of the third state published in Genius, 1920. Dube H. 264/II. / Right: Egon Schiele - Woman Holding Flower (Edith Schiele), 1915. Pencil on wove paper. Black crayon drawing, Houses in Landscape (Kallir D. 1807), verso. 18 1/4" x 12 3/8" (46.4 x 31.4 cm). Kallir D. 1715.

Transitional Positions After Eric Fischl

By establishing a dialog between the modernists, most of them male except for Käthe Kollwitz, and the contemporary female artists, Fischl aims to show the present-day reinterpretation of the inherited painterly models performed by the generation of women who explore the formal and thematic issues with the same vigor as the Expressionists.

Transitional Positions is accessible online at Galerie St. Etienne until 11 September 2020.

Featured images: Jenny Saville - Study for Intertwine II, 2012. Charcoal and pastel on paper mounted on board. 57 ½” x 76 3/8” (146 x 194 cm). Courtesy Gagosian.; Angela Dufresne - Golden Showers of Love, 2019. Oil on canvas. 108" x 144" (274.5 x 366 cm). All images courtesy Galerie St. Etienne.

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