Feel Da Beat, 2008

Plexiglas, acrylic and oil paint, gel medium, canvas, wood, spray paint, aged paper, printed paper, cardboard, plastic, fake hair, tape, charcoal, adhesive, string, bolts

93 by 45 by 2 3/4 inches

Illustration courtesy: Andrea Rosen Gallery

Don't Give Me Salad (Nurses)

Rita Ackermann at Andrea Rosen
By Brian Appel


There is something amazing about the work of living artists—you enjoy “the now” through their eyes.

For Rita Ackermann’s latest one-person show at her long-time dealer Andrea Rosen, “the now” transports the viewer into a soap-opera world as seen through the lens of the artist who has been deeply impacted by the tales of purity and corruption implied in the coveted “Nurse” paintings of the artist Richard Prince.

Feel Da Beat, 2008, a pastiche of acrylic, oil paint, charcoal, canvas, wood, spray paint, aged paper, printed paper, cardboard,
fake hair, string and tape all sandwiched between two large sheets of thick Plexiglas brings the artist’s preoccupation with nurses, gender identity and the process of gathering images and objects together into a powerful, visceral object. Depicting a moment of climax or crisis by fusing a photo-mechanical scull wearing a painted yellow nurse hat overtop the back of a nude, female body holding both a pitcher and a knife—Ackermann’s work plays havoc with one of the most cherished emblems of female identity.


Firecrotch, 2008

Plexiglas, yarn, printed paper, cardboard, tape, charcoal, spray paint, tempera, marker, stickers, bolts

93 1/4 by 45 by 2 3/4 inches

Illustration courtesy: Andrea Rosen Gallery

Firecrotch, also from 2008, utilizes the same larger-than-life female figure but introduces a wide-eyed, feral-like cat head floating aggressively on top of the same photo-mechanical scull over a female nude. The painted pitcher and knives from Feel Da Beat are substituted with two sets of clipped and pasted hands—one drawing a gun out of the waistband of a pair of white jeans, the other pointing a revolver directly at the viewer. Red yarn depicting two pony-tails on top of the femme fatale cat head and red tempera and red marker along the sides of the white figure provide a stage for a dual reading of the work—blood streaming down a nurse’s uniform or a suggestion of the artist’s desire to razz the high-minded lushly expressive painterliness of the exalted post-war action painters.


Mentalist, 2008

Plexiglas, printed paper, acrylic and oil paint, spray paint, self adhesive paper, plastic, tape, bolts

93 by 45 by 2 3/4 inches

Illustration courtesy: Andrea Rosen Gallery

Mentalist, (2008), introduces a target-practice police training poster of a male gunman holding a woman hostage over the top of a couple of disco balls, a mess of tabloid fragments, bullet holes and the above-mentioned scull and female nude (recycled from an Ari Marcopoulos poster). A photo-mechanical muscle car from the 1970s complete with ram-air scoop—a nod to Prince’s hood sculptures perhaps—has been re-worked with hand-drawn paint and hovers vertically where the legs of the work’s composite figure would be. The dreamy cat-like gaze of the artist’s self-portrait sits above it all.


In Da Shade, 2008

Acrylic and oil paint, gel medium, spray paint, dirt, oil stick, printed paper, charcoal, ink on canvas

78 by 85 1/8 by 1 1/2 inches

Illustration courtesy: Andrea Rosen Gallery

In Da Shade, also from 2008, is among Ackermann’s most abstract paintings. The textural collisions of acrylic and oil paint mixed with ink, dirt, spray paint and charcoal create a heightened expressive drama on top of what looks to be figures consumed by a landscape. Confrontational, immediate— yet hidden by the denseness of the surface—there seems to be an energized anxiety which is off-set by the euphoric mood of a red, yellow and blue rainbow criss-crossing through what appears to be spires from a string of Eastern European cathedrals. Is the rainbow a symbolic stand-in for the spiritual as professed in Catholic dogma? Is this the diaristic battle between the innocence and dark humor of youth culture with the roughness and dangers of street life?

Clearly, Ackermann’s evolution from her cast of simple, graphic urban girls who took drugs and wandered about in moody landscapes is over.

Like romance novels that promote deeply constraining patriarchal values that if challenged result in a disturbing or nightmarish end, these composite female figures explore cultural and social stereotypes as they are articulated through the artist's highly personal way of working—through sex, violence and fashion—and send out a cautionary tale. Ackermann disturbs the notion of a nurse as healer and plots a different narrative. Her razor-sharp hybrid paintings cannibalize existing images from the public sphere with other images from her own personal vocabulary providing a darker dissection of being a woman in America.


Brian Appel 2008 Webdesign by Lovegrove & Repucci