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Corinne Wasmuht

SCAD Museum of Art - Savannah, GA

By Todd Schroeder

A technological dream space full of paradoxes: repetitions and multiple entrances, a space for narrative that leads nowhere in particular. Hers is a painting in which the flat pattern of pixelated camouflage and the deep depth of Renaissance perspective fight for space, in which the digital quickness of a Google search couples with the fastidiousness of a meticulously layered and sanded Medieval ground.

Corinne Wasmuht describes her paintings as hinging on that moment when you are just slipping into unconsciousness, where everything comes rushing through your mind as an uncontrollable flood and flow of imagery-a place where everything has the same weight and importance, where the peripheral meets the central point on equal footing.

With that hypnagogic representation in mind, she collects images. Archiving her daily passing through the world, though not at random intersections, she builds collections of like forms, folders of images to return to and from which to construct “edge-of-consciousness” paintings. She speaks of a recent compulsion to document walkways and, so, was excited to travel from Germany to Savannah because of the opportunity it offered her to photograph the lighted corridors on planes and many concourses that she would pass through during her journey.

Corinne Wasmuht, Oberbaum, 2015, oil on wood, 98” x 206.” Courtesy of the artist and Petzel Gallery, New York.

Corinne Wasmuht, Oberbaum, 2015, oil on wood, 98” x 206.” Courtesy of the artist and Petzel Gallery, New York.

Though critics have made much of her use and representation of technology, Wasmuht says her employment of Photoshop has simply evolved from an earlier practice of using scissors and glue collaging; employing the computer is a practical and easy answer to a problem that predates the technology. There is no denying, however, that the pixel and back glow of the computer screen have been imported into her representations of the world. It seems inevitable that those image memories of her time spent looking at the screen would mix into the hypnagogic flow, along with everything else in her digital collages.

The contrasting combinations Wasmuht assembles seem in part engineered as such and in part generated from a long engagement with the history of painting. Though the oppositions of the new and the ancient can be read thematically, the contradictions of her process and medium also enable the manufacture of a specific type of form. On a ground of rabbit-skin glue and chalk, she applies oil paint that, once absorbed, acquires a flat, matte color, reminiscent of that of fresco painting. The dryness of her color facilitates perceptual interplay and allows for flat form to take on spatial ramifications. Compelling tensions in her picture planes are generated by a complex movement between their painted white grounds (reminiscent of the space between the branches in a Mondrian tree painting), which together with the digitized camouflage flattens through patterning; gradations of color and value, lending the illusion of depth; and especially by a linear perspective with multiple vanishing points.

Most of Wasmuht’s paintings in her recent show at the SCAD Museum of Art are immersive, and the exhibition’s curator, Aaron Levi Garvey, considers them “atmospheres.” For her part, Wasmuht has expressed her delight in being completely encompassed by a painting as she works, unable to see anything outside it as she moves back and forth across its surface. The exhibition, the first solo museum show for the artist in the U.S., consists of six paintings, four large-scale, wood, multipaneled works (one over 21 feet long, another rising to almost 13 feet high), and two smaller paintings on aluminum panels. The viewer, in essence, is subsumed into a mini-retrospective of works that range from a painting finished in 2001 to three from 2015.

Though her complex compositions read beautifully in reproduction, Wasmuht’s restrained facture requires one to be fully in their physical presence to know them. These are achingly lush paintings. They unfold slowly.

(February 16 - June 12, 2016)

Todd Schroeder is an artist and professor of painting at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

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