LondonJutta Koether: Femme Colonne
Lévy Gorvy presents its second exhibition with Jutta Koether. On view at 22 Old Bond Street and 40 Albemarle Street, Jutta Koether: Femme Colonne features seven new, large-scale paintings.
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Since the 1980s, Koether has utilized appropriation to situate herself within an eclectic artistic genealogy that references idioms from French baroque painting to Symbolism, Post- Impressionism, and Surrealism. In a recurring repertoire of pixelated or “bruised” grids, vibrant red paint, and unfurling ribbons and curtains, Koether layers her own figuration with art historical motifs, recasting these symbols to provoke generative new meanings. This recursion of representational devices invites each viewer to engage deeply with Koether’s canvases, exploring the many valences of signification each opens up—individually and in juxtaposition with other works, across the landscape of art history.
Jutta Koether: Femme Colonne elaborates on the artist’s tradition of canonical reference. The exhibition borrows its title from a term coined by art historian T. J. Clark in an essay on the French classicist Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665). In his reading of Poussin’s The Sacrament of Marriage (1647–48), Clark refers to the figure at the painting’s far left as the “femme-colonne,” which literally translates to “woman column”—the folds of her clothes and veil are all that remain visible beyond the looming architectural form at her right. Koether’s paintings in Femme Colonne reckon with and reimagine this mysterious figure, simultaneously encompassing the human and the architectural, the upright and the horizontal, the marginal and the pivotal.
The paintings on view extend representational motifs and schemas Koether has developed throughout her artistic career; her signature red hue and reconceptualized female nudes respond to Clark’s academic proposition of uprightness, femininity, and light. Like the “woman column” herself, Koether’s Femme Colonne is what Clark might call “an invitation to reading.” Portraying a vibrant dialogue with art history, the seven distinctive works also encourage contemporary discourse, their iterative structure functioning as a unified body which interweaves verticality, gender, materiality, and paint. In her project of revisiting, remaking, and (re)presenting the femme-colonne, Koether paints new, evocative formations that rely upon and engage the participation of the viewer—the presence of the being standing always nearly out of frame.
Installation view, Jutta Koether: Femme Colonne, Lévy Gorvy London, 2021. Photo: Stephen White