Gallery shows

Katharina Wulff: “A discomfiting formal eccentricity that borders on the grotesque and amateurish”

�Katharina Wulff, Untitled,� 2010, oil and charcoal on canvas, 47.25 x 63″�
�Katharina Wulff, installation view.
Katharina Wulff,Untitled, oil and charcoal on canvas, 18 x 16″

Contributed by Sharon Butler / Berlin-born and Marrakech-based, Katharina Wulff has been exhibiting in Europe for the past ten years and the current exhibition at Green Naftali, her second solo show in NYC, is a sequel to an exhibition presented last spring at Galerie Daniel Buchholz in Cologne. In ArtForum, which has selected the show as a Critics’ Pick, Sam Pulitzer reports that �Hysteric Whimsy,� which is the translation of the German title, wanwizzi, describes much recent figurative painting. “The idea of paintings whose subjectively tailored idiosyncrasies, their very wanwizzi, lie in an ability to effectively claim ownership of the masterful subjects of premodernist painting�this, despite obvious ironies, draws artists such as John Currin, Lukas Duwenhogger, and Mark Ryden into dangerously close proximity. Or consider, on the other hand, the work of Karen Kilimnik and Elizabeth Peyton, where the uniform lack of a master�s surface is the distinguishing feature; such work, given its fluent inability to disown prescribed social motifs, speaks the master�s tongue despite its unorthodox accent.

“Much like the archaic word itself, Wulff�s particular wanwizzi is largely unspoken within the figurative regimes of contemporary art. For in Wulff�s canvases, the uniformity of figures is an uncertain affair. Works are populated with ‘unfinished’-looking disruptions: unrendered portraits surrounded by theatrical masks; bodies whose meticulous brushwork trails off into charcoal sketching; landscapes with only faint hints of peopled narratives. Elsewhere in this show, other works are ‘too finished,’ replete with a discomfiting formal eccentricity that borders on the grotesque and amateurish.

“Drawing heavily on the submodern idioms of Symbolism and Surrealism, Wulff�s technique also echoes modernism�s analytic visuality�namely the C�zanne who preferred to paint the space between his apples. Works proceed unpredictably to their completed state, leaving figures fixed in visual moments throughout the psychological and material experience of committing them to canvas; these are interrupted always by a ‘hysteric whimsy’ that productively fails to seize Wulff�s mannered subjects in a uniformity that might be recognizable to the self-identifying techniques routinely unquestioned by contemporary culture.”

Katharina Wulff,” Green Naftali, New York, NY. Through Oct. 16, 2010.


  1. Please, can someone say in a few sentences what Mr. Pulitzer is trying to say? My small aging brain can't take it in.

  2. I was thinking the same thing. A prime example of bad art writing. I rather like some of the paintings, however.

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