3 November 2012

Fattening Cannibals in the mensa

"Euler does not exempt her own image from this pictorial universe of ambition. In an untitled self-portrait from 2008, she has wrapped her right arm over her head so that it reaches the left half of her face. The pose recalls a formerly widespread procedure used by German primary schools to test whether a child was ready for school: The candidate’s hand had to reach the ear on the other side. Euler paints herself a certificate of maturity and membership but also stages the artist’s life as a perpetual performance test. The detail of the hand clutching a cigarette in a deliberately awkward pose identifies her as a member of the bohemian segment of the art world, the more so as it imitates a habitual gesture of her professor Michael Krebber. And at least since Francis Picabia’s Espagnole à la Cigarette, 1921–22, the female smoker has been an art-historically overdetermined trope, signifying transgressiveness, meditativeness, and autoeroticism.
Moreover, from the early twentieth century through the 1980s (the heyday of Virginia Slims’ well-known slogan, “You’ve come a long way, baby”), cigarettes also signified women’s emancipation, which may also help account for their appearance in Euler’s works. Certainly with the series of women’s portraits Euler showed at Real Fine Arts this past spring, she had visibly broken free of the male-dominated universe depicted in her earlier portraits. The friends portrayed here likewise catered to their own desires—the painter captured one of them taking a drag on a cigarette, another slurping an oyster. She had not, however, abandoned the affiliation with Neue Sachlichkeit. The thin layers of oil she used to create these pictures once again allude to that movement and the way in which its own facture recalled Northern Renaissance panel painting."
—Isabelle Graw "Social Realism: The art of Jana Euler"

No comments: