November 14, 2020–May 16, 2021
The bloody root of art strangled by nausea shaking my fist against me.
What remains of “songless” — “a serious bird.” Because
I feel sick. Samesick with you.
(Heiner Müller (Friedrich Hölderlin) / Ulf Stolterfoht / Kai Althoff)
Berlin-based artist and writer Michaela Eichwald (Germany, b. 1967) maintains a restless and fearless belief in the possibility of painting. Bringing together pieces made over the last 15 years, this first US museum exhibition reveals the wide variety of references in her work, drawing on references to theology, philosophy, and art history, while also reflecting on her own life: her surroundings, thinking, reading, and friends.
Following studies in philosophy, history, art history, and German philology in Cologne, Eichwald emerged as an artist, with her first exhibition held at Galerie Daniel Buchholz in 1997. The context of Cologne—at the time, an undisputed center of European contemporary art—proved formative for Eichwald, a place where she maintained a lively exchange of ideas with many intellectuals and fellow artists, including Kai Althoff, Jutta Koether, Michael Krebber, Josef Strau, and Charline von Heyl, among others. In 2006, Eichwald began episodically blogging on uhutrust.com, providing a logbook with insight into her practice, everyday musings, and contemplations of current affairs.
Bridging abstraction and figuration, Eichwald’s densely layered paintings—often made on unconventional surfaces such as printed canvas or imitation leather—bear an alchemical combination of acrylic, oil, tempera, spray paint, mordant, graphite, varnish, and lacquer. Whether in large- or small-scale formats, her works combine smooth paint strokes and quick smudges, at times revealing figurative forms and snippets of text. Discussing her preference for pleather, the artist notes, “artificial leather has something repulsive, inelegant, something that cannot be easily classified in art history. And it doesn't suck.” This sense of refusing to fall within conventions underscores Eichwald’s practice. While her works are part of a lineage of abstraction, they resist any direct connection to a particular movement or period, instead churning through a history of painterly styles and combining them in surprising ways.
To create her sculptures, Eichwald pours resin into bags, rubber gloves, and plastic bottles, in which she collects—like objects captured in amber—uncommon and dissonant materials, such as chicken bones, erasers, jewelry, mushrooms, fishing tackle, needles, candy, small drawings, and hard-boiled eggs. At once repulsive and alluring, grotesque and seductive, these pieces bring to mind associations ranging from trophies and time capsules to the human digestive system.
Interspersed throughout the exhibition is a newly commissioned long-form poem by her friend, writer Ulf Stolterfoht, created especially in response to the selection of works on view.
Curator: Pavel Pyś, curator, Visual Arts
Michaela Eichwald is made possible by generous support from Martha Gabbert, the David and Leni Moore Family Foundation, Monica and David Nassif, and Brian Pietsch and Christopher Hermann.
Support for the exhibition’s preview and opening program is provided by Heather Flow; Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin; Maureen Paley; and Reena Spaulings Fine Art.
Virtual Exhibition Talk: Laura Hoptman on Michaela Eichwald
Saturday, November 14, 7pm (CST)
To celebrate the opening of this exhibition, curator and writer Laura Hoptman will offer a virtual lecture that surveys the artist’s practice. Looking across Eichwald’s paintings, drawings, and sculptures, Hoptman will discuss key motifs and subject matter recurring throughout the artist’s work. The lecture will be screening online for free on YouTube Premiere beginning at 7pm (CST) November 14 and remain on the Walker’s website throughout the duration of the exhibition.
Exhibition curator Pavel Pyś will be present in the YouTube Premiere chat November 14, 7–8pm to answer questions live.
Laura Hoptman is executive director of The Drawing Center in New York, a position she has held since 2018. Before that Hoptman was a curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art New York, where she began her career in the 1990s as a curator with a specialty in drawing. Among the dozens of exhibitions that Hoptman has curated are Drawing Now: Eight Propositions (2002), a landmark exhibition of contemporary figurative drawing at MoMA, as well as The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World (2014), a major survey of recent painting, which featured works by Michaela Eichwald. Hoptman has also curated several retrospectives by artists including Yayoi Kusama, Isa Genzken, Henry Taylor, Bruce Conner, and Elizabeth Peyton, and she organized the 54th Carnegie International at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh.