Got an appetite? "Hunger: New painting from art schools in Germany," curated by Jomar Statkun, is the new exhibit at the LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies. On display through Dec. 8, this exhibit is definitely a contemplative experience. The somber mood of the paintings is quite appropriate for the upcoming New York City winter, enticing visitors to come in out of the bitter cold and view these strangely narrative paintings. The exhibit has very little written material to inform gallery visitors of what they are looking at. This lack of written material forces the viewer to study the canvases longer, grasping at any familiar images in an attempt to understand what they are viewing. There is not even a key to tell visitors which artists painted which paintings. The exhibit was inspired by a quote from Ernest Hemingway, in which he observes that "all the paintings were sharper and clearer and more beautiful if you were belly?empty, hollow?hungry," and it seems that his experience is replicated by the layout of the paintings in the gallery. The viewer is forced to crave the information in the paintings, and, through careful observation, wondrous images become apparent. One especially impressive painting is a landscape by Johanna Tiedtke, which at first glance looks like an abstract image, but, upon closer examination, a misty field materializes out of the atmospheric brush strokes that cover the canvass in bluish?gray tones. One bright dot, perhaps suggesting a planet or star in the early morning, glimmers low on the far left horizon of this painting. It is incredible how such a simple composition can conjure up an entire scene. All the paintings in the exhibit follow in this strangely minimalist, yet narrative, line—each canvas bears a pictorial story much richer than the physical reality of the paint strokes themselves. Each painting not only tells a story individually, but also flows into the next to tell a longer narrative that involves all the works of art. After viewing the works one after the other clockwise around the gallery, it is as if an entire story has been narrated to the viewer. Starting with the smallest canvas in the gallery—a sinister portrait of a white horse with blood dripping from its mouth—and ending with the largest canvas displayed—a large abstract with large and vigorous brush strokes of various colors—each painting acts as a chapter in a somber novel. Each painting encourages gallery visitors on to look at the next canvas to try and figure out what will happen next in this pictorial story. Although this exhibit is very small (the gallery at the Neiman Center only offers one room of exhibit space), the paintings send viewers off a far distance into their own thoughts and memories. The stories narrated through this new visual material from Germany bring Neiman Gallery visitors through complicated twists of thought and story, offering a long and interesting trip through the imagination.
Columbia Spectator Staff