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The Gentle Art of Making Enemies

Monique van Genderen

September 25 – November 2, 2014

Press Release

Galleri Brandstrup proudly presents a new series of art works by the L.A.-based artist Monique van Genderen. Her first solo exhibition at the gallery is entitled Abstrakt Maler: The Gentle Art of Making Enemies.

Van Genderen graduated from California Institute of the Arts in the early 1990s, and although she may be associated with other Los Angeles painters of that decade, her work engages a complex vocabulary of historical and contemporary references. In her work, van Genderen explores elements of narrative, illusion and figuration within the framework of abstraction. One can say that the artist allows the surface and material to narrate the picture plane, rather than a subject. Her works explore the intervention of hardedge abstractions made from traditional painter’s mediums and various industrial materials. In one work, there is silhouette of a flower the way Matisse would paint it, but in the next, she uses elements of the typical style of Mark Rothko.

Her abstract and non-figurative paintings shows a spatial complexity achieved only through the play of light and color. The surfaces in her paintings are alternately transparent and reflective, and a closer look reveals occasional matte areas, which define the physical surface on which she works. The various levels of transparency and reflection are achieved through different types of paint: oil, enamel and alkyd. Pieces or additional planes proclaim a structure within the canvas. The painter is aware of the edge, usually stopping short of it, occasionally going off it. Her color choices range from organic to synthetic - from the pastoral colors of the garden to the neon lights of the nightclub.

The most outstanding reference to art history in van Genderens art is of the female artist Helen Frankenthaler and her Color Field paintings. The resemblance is striking between the two, but van Genderen pushes the limits of the abstract much further. Her paintings appeal to the spectator‘s body as well as the eye, which heightens the physiological experience of viewing to an aesthetic experience.

In 2011, van Genderen held a show at Galerie Michael Janssen in Berlin, Germany with the title The Gentle Art of Making Enemies. This year’s exhibition at Galleri Brandstrup has the same title, but the artist has also supplemented Abstrakt Maler (Abstract Painter). The title The Gentle Art of Making Enemies emphasizes her relationship to art history; it alludes to the book of the same name by the great painter James Abbot McNeill Whistler. It was first published in 1892 and is an account of personal revenges between Whistler and the art critic John Ruskin who criticized Whistler‘s beautiful painting Nocturne in Black and Gold. Ruskin called the painting "unfinished" and as "flinging a pot of paint in the public's face". There is an important link between the title of the book and the exhibition, as the painting Nocturne in Black and Gold is told to be the first nonfigurative painting ever made. Whistler was already in the beginning of the 19th century pointing towards what would be the tradition of nonrepresentational painting, and even though abstraction now is accepted as fine art, van Genderen points towards a historical development that still is at work.