Some Esoteric Sipping
Oil on canvas
15 3/4 x 11 13/16 inches (40 x 30 cm)
© Jutta Koether
Courtesy Lévy Gorvy and Galerie Buchholz
Some Esoteric Sipping (1986) 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 the present painting proposes. Here, three squares sprout fibrous, undulating cords, which dangle atop a rectangular plane rendered in shades of crimson and carmine. Summoning images of cellular organisms, bodily interiors, and electronic circuitry, its composition also evokes certain sculptures by Eva Hesse, such as Ishtar (1965) and Addendum (1967), which similarly feature sinewy strings that emerge from circles set within squares. Its lightly brushed surface and pairing of red and black—typical of Koether’s work from this period—emphasize the materiality of paint, here presented as a metaphor for flesh. Held between abstraction and figuration, Some Esoteric Sipping transforms the canvas into a charged, corporeal terrain.