Absage ans Paradies
Nov 11th, 2021 - Jan 8th, 2022
The monster appears in Galli’s paintings not as a specific psychoanalytic or mythological entity, but as an interface for painterly representation in general. Through it, she articulates a deeply enigmatic take on the body and its encounters with violence, desire, commodities, and animals, amongst many other things, interpolating these motifs in grotesque, if charming, amorphous figures and spaces.
Born in 1944 in Saarland, former West Germany, Galli established herself in the West Berlin art scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s. A contemporary to the Die Neuen Wilden in Germany, she rejected the rigidness of conceptual art in favor of gestural brushstroke and figuration with an expressive corporeality at its center. In the decades to come, Galli became a prominent fixture of her generation in Germany, presenting solo exhibitions in countless galleries as well as Forum Kunst Rottweil, the Bodensee Museum in Friedrichshafen, and the Salzburger Kunstverein. Last year her works were on view at the KW in the context of the 11th Berlin Biennale.
Galli’s first exhibition with brunand brunand presents 5 paintings and 5 drawings, most of them completed by Galli during her residency at the Villa Romana in Florence, Italy, in 1990. In addition, a group of 89 index cards drawn from ballpen is on display, a quick sketching method that the artist has employed throughout her prolific career.
Galli’s painterly strategy is at once visceral and self-reflexive; her forays into figuration are never presented without a commentary on the medium itself, a history she interrogates with a joyful and intellectual irreverence. Wer das Gelbe nicht ehrt (1981/1987) (“Who does not honor the yellow”) presents a nebulous and head-less grey body firmly holding onto a bone in front of a lemony yellow monochrome backdrop, while in Klassisches Getümmelbild (1990), a clump of abstract bodies assemble in commotion in front of a bi-chromatic color field suggesting a room or an architecture. As such, painting becomes a stage for confrontations between subject and form both haunted by history—be it art history or political history. Galli’s baroque figures, with their limbs protruding or seemingly multiplying, may allude to the grotesque corporeality of Goya and Rubens, but the artist transposes these into a one-dimensional, almost comic book-style contemporary, where they are allowed to shine, squirm, and be redeemed as proto-subjects. The morbid cartoon is most directly conveyed in her dramatic and narrative-heavy index cards, but it is also visible in Kentaur (für Schari!), 1990, where an amorphous horse-like figure with several human limbs seems to be nearly breaking through the enclosed space that surrounds it; its seemingly buoyant geist, conveyed in shades of red and ochre, is negated by the macabre motif that shows the creature stabbing its own arm with a knife and bleeding. Inversely, in o.T. (Monster von Firenze), 1990, a morbid scene depicts the notorious mass murder who in the 1990s traversed the streets of Florence, looming over one of his presumed subjects. Yet, with the artist’s wild-drawn lines, attention to the clutching of human hands, and generous use of crimson red, an erotic allegory feels pressing.
Galli explains her sudden employment of earth colors as a direct result of her time observing Tuscany’s landscape, and for registering the city of Florence itself. Rather than the postcard-like Renaissance city that many know it to be, the artist saw in its martial architecture, and dingy, narrow streets, the dark underbelly of the European humanist tradition of thought and of representation. Her deeply original morphology, transcending genre or style, are testaments to this antagonistic corporeal ethos: Galli’s bodies may be disfigured, mutated, disabled, but they all showcase an unmistakable lust and passion for life, for being and bodiliness in all its wondrous ambivalence.