Oil on canvas
14 x 14 inches (35.5 x 35.5 cm)
© Jutta Koether
Courtesy Lévy Gorvy and Galerie Buchholz
Croisset (1985) dates to Koether’s early years in Cologne. Intimately sized, like ritual objects or fetishes, her paintings of the 1980s bear witness to her search for alternatives to both standard narratives of modernism and then-dominant models of neo-expressionism. Seeking other ways to be, and to be as an artist, she looked to esoteric and dissident modes, like Surrealism, the landscape paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe, and the late work of Philip Guston, “sipping” them, so to speak—as the title of two paintings in the exhibition, Some Esoteric Sipping (1986), proposes. Croisset presents a landscape of shifting, rounded forms rendered in modulated shades of scarlet and peach. Together, they evoke a range of images, from sinews, bones, and bodily interiors to swirling celestial gases and galaxies. Enigmatic and unresolved, its composition telescopes scales, joining the small and the imponderably vast. Its brushy impasto and pairing of red and gray—typical of Koether’s work from this period—emphasize the materiality of paint, here presented as a metaphor for flesh. Dense and deliberately crude, its surface effects a sense of spatial compression—one that would relent in the mid-to-late 1980s through lighter, more liquid applications of paint. Held between abstraction and figuration, Croisset transforms the canvas into a suggestive terrain, at once corporeal and cosmic.