She paints on the ground, on site, right in the middle of her life. She works with homemade oil sticks and car wash sponges, anything to avoid using a brush. And you can tell. The paintings in her exhibition, Human Remains, are unruly and compelling; their mascara is smudged and their laugh carries across the party.
The colors pool and swell, saturating the canvas, spilling across the paper, washing all the way through. Bright clouds of colored chalk, inks spots billowing in the wet ring where you set down your drink. An eye appears, maybe nipples, in lines that are as unmannered as a cave painting or a dirty cartoon. The perspectives shift. The creamy marks and vivid surges cohere into a bust and dissolve again. These paintings aren’t keeping their distance, they stand close enough for you to feel the heat of their colors, their breath on your neck.
Wehrhahn combs the edges of her canvas out into a fringe that is like a tassel, like eyelashes, like a threadbare hem come undone, like a new haircut. It gives them both the ornament of a lace trim, and the candor of a torn seam. Her paintings, decorated by their own unraveling. Like the fringe on a buckskin jacket, worn as camouflage, designed to break up the silhouette of a rider on his horse, backlit by the sun. In the same way, the figure of the painting is here disrupted, we can no longer disentangle it entirely from its surroundings.
The paintings in Human Remains feel like they were made out of primordial soup and spilled hair dye. Crayons on a shroud. They are like leopard print on a short skirt, a blind and unknowing strategy born from millions of years of animals hunting and starving, torn into meat and bearing young, honed by this world, its conditions and duration, into a spectacular, impossible arrangement, a pattern of survival, now slipping up her thigh when she crosses her legs.
Text by Jenny Nichols
Annette Wehrhahn lives in Brooklyn, New York. She received a BFA in Printmaking from the Rhode Island School of Design and an MFA in Painting from Bard College. Recent exhibitions include: Elizabeth Foundation, New York, Safe Gallery, Brooklyn, NY, Bernard Ceysson Luxembourg, Redemptions, Andel 31 / Share 31, Copenhagen, Denmark, and Collective Show, Mexico City, Mexico.