Claude Monet is today recognized as a leader of the impressionist movement, and indeed, as one of the most widely known and well respected of all his peers. Throughout the course of his prolific career, which spanned decades, Monet ceaselessly expounded on his craft. His series of haystacks, which he painted in 1890 and 1891 near his home in Giverny, and another series of paintings of the Manneporte near the seaside town of Etretat, both illustrate Monet’s preoccupation of painting the same feature, in this case, expertly accumulated mounds of straw and a unique rock formation respectively, repeatedly. The ever-changing atmospheric effects of light and color which Monet sought to capture are underscored by virtue of the fact that the subject of these paintings is a fixed variable. The diversity of Monet’s subjects from these series is intentionally limited, for the more repetitive the subjects are, the more obvious subtle variations become, and therefore, these pairings are not about their subjects but their variations. At the Ziehersmith Gallery* in Chelsea, the printmaker and artist Chrisoph Ruckhaberle presents a series of 21 paintings representing reclining female nudes simply entitled New Paintings. As a printmaker, Ruckhaberle is no stranger to the concept repeated motifs, although while each of his new paintings has the same subject, there is great diversity in his representational styles and color palettes. In other words, while each painting depicts a naked female woman, and there is little to no variety in their poses, Ruckhaberle
constructs each form with exaggerated, sweeping lines, sharply defined colors and organic shapes to the point where each painting is undeniably unique from the next. Like Monet’s work with haystacks and geological formations, Ruckhaberle’s repeated subject is meaningful only in that it is the same from one painting to the next for the sake of highlighting variations in style, composition and color. Given the long and often problematic legacy of female nudes within the context of Western art, it is tempting to incorporate these works into that larger dialogue, and examine how Ruckhaberle’s paintings either contribute to or stand defiant of the traditions that have long shackled the representation of female nudity in Western art to the male gaze. However, the very nature of the series defies this temptation, because Ruckhaberle intentionally subverts the significance of his subject through repetition.
- Chrisoph Ruckhaberle’s solo show New Paintings
Is on view at the Zeihersmith Gallery, 516 W 20th St,
From November 17th to December 22nd