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Ernst Caramelle: Look closely

Ernst Caramelle, “actual size,” installation view at Peter Freeman

Contributed by Marjorie Welish / As faithful to his subject as he is charming in craft, Ernst Caramelle focuses his attention on the plane—the plane as protagonist undergoing trials, trials to test the caliber of its planarity. In his solo show of work on paper at Peter Freeman, Caramelle renders the plane within an architectural space intimate enough to suggest a room, yet generic enough to indicate an artist’s studio as a site of theory.

Ernst Caramelle, Untitled, 2019–2022, sun on paper, 18 x 24 inches

The plane’s nature is teased, Caramelle seems to argue, not always to serve the function of the picture plane’s surrogate. He renders it in perspective within a fictional world of the tectonic space, calling it into being through materials and methods somewhat at odds with the austerity of a formalist ideology. The techniques and materials he utilizes range from the ephemeral — paper exposed to sunlight that all but guarantees disappearance — to rougher conditions that induce wrinkling of the paper support, denying the foundational flatness of the plane. The paper, worked in gesso and watercolor, begins to buckle, so that the facture, not the image, is what we really see.

Ernst Caramelle, “actual size,” installation view at Peter Freeman

Meanwhile, this exhibition insists on the intimate engagement with individual works. There is no possibility of standing at the threshold of the large gallery, scanning the room for the one “most interesting” work, as if to disregard all others. Not only does process reveal itself, but so does the reason for close viewing, which is to place the viewer in the position of the artist at work. That is to say, the reception of the individual works depends on establishing a position commensurate with studio practice. From this perspective there is no escaping the delicacy of the brushwork and the internal edges of the planar composition, as present to discernment.

Ernst Caramelle, actual size, 2020, watercolor and gesso on paper, 29 x 86 x 3/4 inches

The works are mostly small — even tiny. But are they? This is where Caramelle is sly. By titling his exhibition “actual size,” the artist indicates an opposition to the current gigantic art-fair-sized wares now in vogue, and also, all the more importantly, a belief that each art work should attain the size that best suits its experimental nature.

Ernst Caramelle: actual size,” Peter Freeman, Inc., 140 Grand Street, New York, NY. Through May 27, 2023.

About the author: Painter and art critic Marjorie Welish has received many grants and fellowships, including the Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation, Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, The Fifth Floor Foundation, Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, Pollock-Krasner Foundation, and Trust for Mutual Understanding.

One Comment

  1. very nice, and intelligent review.

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