Rita Ackermann painting

This is the first time I’ve seen a Rita Ackermann painting in person. She’s always existed and not existed, enigmatically much like Cy Twombly. There are other artists like that too, of course, but he comes to mind right away. They both are their own current, their own center of gravity. The show is striking, albeit a bit uneven. But none of that even matters. I didn’t even care that the first painting you see as you walk in the door uses trompe l'oeil paint marks meant to evoke the blue painter’s tape every house painter and artist knows. The slow, horizontal bands overlaid on a frenzy of abstract expressionist relational, gestural advancement and recession into space was jarring. The smurf-like, blue and white figures laying around all naked, softened the blow. Ackermann is a very funny painter. Within half a second I knew this show was going to be nothing short of exactly what I needed to see.


Rita Ackermann, Vertical Vanish, 2022, Oil and Acrylic on Canvas; Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles

But why tho? The last thing I want to do here is try and describe the paintings that I saw.  I don’t want to word-walk you through the painting Vertical Vanish, because I just don’t want to.  Go see it and then do it yourself.  I’d rather go back and look at it again and let it make me blush and slow my breathing to a steady, shallow rhythm. All the blood rushed to my face and for some reason I unconsciously placed my left hand on my left cheek.  I think I was responding to the rise in temperature of my whole head. I felt things, I thought things.  She completely nailed the title to this painting and I drove over freeways, through conduits, transported my body through circuits to finally round a corner in a gallery/compound just so I could walk up and stand in front of that painting again to have a visceral, human experience. And I’ll probably do it at least again and again. 


Rita Ackermann, Home Run, 2022, Acrylic and Oil on Canvas; Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles

Do you want to know why?  Because love and longing, maybe. Because tsuki ga kirei desu ne?  Possibly. I just know that having a visceral reaction to a painting is now a remarkable and atypical experience. I’m still trying to piece together exactly why that is.  Maybe I'm just depressed? Maybe so. It’s possible that I have image fatigue. I’m simply just seeing too much stuff and even though it slides right out of my consciousness, it’s still consuming precious energy and units of my time. 

The gift of her and other artist’s work like hers (I know it when I see it) is that it exists and asserts itself. I suppose my big takeaway is that it doesn’t really matter how good or bad these paintings are. Sure, they do align very closely with my values as an artist, but I’m just overjoyed to be seeing paintings that don’t make me feel like my consciousness is sliding right off the surface of them. They’re dirty and developed and she transmutates/synthesizes the constellation of her influences unconsciously, because she’s a real painter. Real real real, there’s that word again. They are who she is and she wears it well. Franz Kline, Elaine De Kooning, Pat Steir, COBRA, even Henry Darger. 


Rita Ackermann, Golden Hour, 2022, Acrylic, Oil and China Marker on Canvas; Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles

I fear I'm not communicating this effectively, so let me continue rambling on, piecing this together. Maybe I’m just growing old. Probably. Yeah, that’s definitely happening. It’s actually not so bad. But, anyway, there’s a growing fissure developing within my understanding of painting and I notice I’m becoming more and more uninterested in thinking about it so much. 


Rita Ackermann, Blood on the Dance Floor, 2022, Acrylic, Oil and China Marker on Canvas; Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles

I move and grow in cycles and things become more and more subtle as I get older and more experienced.  Things that don’t stick just naturally fall off and disappear. When I was younger, before the internet, I had friends and I knew their phone numbers and we talked and played and all that stuff. But then things change, they move.  We go to different schools. You know what happened then? I forgot their number and over time, the memory of that person faded and was overwritten, only fragments remained, glitched images. I can probably even try and recall their datamosh if I really tried, but there’s no real way to know if it’s them or not. That’s where my old friends belong, I suppose. Life is sad and loss is an essential part of what makes it fulfilling. Today, I’m not allowed to forget things so easily. There’s more friction due to a corporatized, tech-bro enforcement of what stays and what goes. As if the government wasn’t problematic enough, there's an algorithm nested inside of it now that organizes people so nicely. It’s not causing any problems, btw. Remember the scene in Alien when the Xenomorph burst out of Kane’s chest? Yeah you do. Do you remember anything at all about any of the new Marvel Movies you watched? No you don’t.  You might if you’re already deeply immersed in that universe, but if not, then all my best to you. You’re gonna walk out of the movie theater feeling like someone just stuck their finger inside your brain and wiggled it around and then pulled it out. They disappear with your eighteen dollars into the Hollywood Hills without a trace.  It’s just something I notice. I see it in painting too.


Rita Ackermann, Blood on the Dance Floor, 2022, Acrylic, Oil and China Marker on Canvas; Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles

But the fissure, right. The fissure is developing. Let’s name it after Ackermann’s painting, The Vertical Vanish. On one side there’s Painting and on the other side, there’s a whole lot of something else that has a different type of value and function. It’s called content, and it sure looks a lot like painting.


Rita Ackermann, Vertical Vanish (detail), 2022, Oil and Acrylic on Canvas; Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles


Rita Ackermann: Vertical Vanish is on view through April 30th at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles.

More information can be found at : https://vip-hauserwirth.com/gallery-exhibitions/rita-ackermann-vertical-vanish/