Oil on canvas
133 7/8 x 82 11/16 inches (340 x 210 cm)
© Jutta Koether
Neuer Mann (2019) conveys Koether’s vision of its titular “new man”: a concept with a rich legacy among avant-garde artists, who sought to unite art and life, revolutionizing both in the process. Its compositiondepicts two male bodies: one tumbles through space, entwined with a cascading garland, while another stands, his left finger pointed upward—an enigmatic gesture that likewise appears in the paintings of Leonardo da Vinci, hinting at his conception of painting as a mode of thinking with one’s hands, wherein the artist inhabits the picture, fusing mind, body, and image. A frequent presence in Koether’s recent paintings, the garland functions as a cipher: a form, manifest in a myriad of cultural artifacts, from Roman wall paintings to Flemish Baroque still lifes, that lacks an inherent meaning. Floating in space, it thematizes suspension, its significance constantly shifting as it moves among contexts—an allegory, perhaps, for Koether’s practice. Set within a field of kaleidoscopic color, the upright figure cradles a palm tree: an allusion to Christ, perhaps, but also a symbol of renewal. Prismatic and complex, Neuer Mann embraces pendent meanings—and the anxiety that such semantic irresolution may provoke—while looking forward to unforeseen possibilities.