First U.S. gallery exhibition of Romanian painter Adrian Ghenie opens at Pace Gallery

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First U.S. gallery exhibition of Romanian painter Adrian Ghenie opens at Pace Gallery
Adrian Ghenie, Pie Fight Interior 2, 2012. Oil on canvas, 50-1/4" x 78" (127.6 cm x 198.1 cm).

NEW YORK, NY.- Pace presents the first U.S. gallery exhibition of Romanian painter Adrian Ghenie, who joined the gallery in 2011. This exhibition follows Adrian Ghenie: Pie-Fights and Pathos, Ghenie’s first U.S. museum exhibition, presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver last fall.

Adrian Ghenie: New Paintings is on view at 534 West 25th Street from March 8 through May 4. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue with an essay by Nora Burnett Abrams, the curator who organized the MCA Denver presentation.

Ghenie’s paintings investigate the darker currents of modern European history, combining sources from historical books, archives, film stills, and the artist’s imagination to create simultaneously figurative and abstract images that address issues of personal and collective memory. Exposing the horror and complexity of some of the most historically charged moments of the twentieth century, Ghenie’s painterly and expressionistic canvases force the viewer to confront and bear witness to the past.

The exhibition features a new group of paintings from Ghenie’s “Pie Fight” series, which he began in 2008 and returned to in 2012. The works combine episodes of Nazi history with the slapstick trope of a pie fight, the thick impasto of paint serving as the filling that obscures the subject’s face. The surreal scenes transform charged historical figures—from Adolph Hitler to Charles Darwin, whose theories of natural selection were bastardized by the Nazis—into faceless archetypes, their features scraped and muddied beyond recognition.

“Beyond humiliation, the transfiguration from individual to type is a vicious swipe on the artist’s part to alter—destroy, really—this historical legacy,” writes Burnett Abrams. “By attacking his distinctive features and sullying his face with thick strokes of oil paint, Ghenie delivers his most vicious attack: to make Hitler into an anonymous figure upends the authorial power he once held.”

Ghenie’s newest works have become increasingly complex, veering closer towards abstraction and emphasizing the textures of scraped, layered, and spilled paint. As in the past, he often inserts self-portraits into the works—as in Persian Miniature (2013) and Self-Portrait as Vincent Van Gogh (2012). Infused with ambiguity, the works operate in the areas between figuration and abstraction, history and imagination, past and present, and identifiable and absurd.

Adrian Ghenie (b. 1977, Baia Mare, Romania) graduated in 2001 from the University of Art and Design, Cluj, Romania. He has been the subject of solo exhibitions at museums including the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (2012–2013); Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kuns (S.M.A.K.), Ghent (2010–2011); and National Museum of Contemporary Art, Bucharest (2009–2010). His work has been included in group exhibitions at institutions including the Palazzo Grassi, François Pinault Foundation, Venice (2011); Tate Liverpool, (2008); the Prague Biennial (2007, 2009); and Bucharest Biennial (2008). He was featured in One of a Thousand Ways to Defeat Entropy, an official collateral event organized by the Courtauld Institute for the 54th Biennale di Venezia (2011). Most recently, Ghenie was included in Six Lines of Flight at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2012), an exhibition that convened artists from six burgeoning artistic hubs around the globe, including Ghenie's hometown of Cluj, and in Francis Bacon and the Existential Condition in Contemporary Art at the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence (2012–13), which explored the influence and affinities between the work of Bacon and five young contemporary artists who also engage with the figure, the grotesque, and questions of existentialism. Ghenie’s work is held in a number of public collections, including the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Antwerp; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and S.M.A.K., Ghent.

In 2005, Ghenie co-founded Galeria Plan B, a production and exhibition space for contemporary art, as well as a center for research on Romanian art of the past fifty years. Ghenie lives and works in Cluj and Berlin.

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