Annette Wehrhahn

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What is my work about?

It’s a strange thing to occupy a body—to see bits of it, looking out through two tiny eye holes and trying to converse and relate to those around you. My relationship to my work is the same as any other intimate relationship in my life: I discover things about myself through this mysterious other. As in a conversation with another person, I make a move and then stand back, hear and see what I am being told, and decide how to respond. In considering how well these non-verbal cues communicate, I began to notice how language falls short for me in my day-to-day relations. The sheer operation of getting something through to somebody sometimes seems impossible. With this in mind, I began incorporating simple phrases in my pieces—using systems of visual and verbal language that are interrupted, manipulated, and remade on the way to new modes and forms. At issue is the possibility—or impossibility—of true communication.

 

Artist Statement

My work balances decisive gestures with improvisation. I initiate pieces intuitively, and then look carefully to see what the work is telling me and determine how best to respond. I consciously suspend my critical apparatus while I’m working and allow things to happen. There’s a risk involved—I’m always about to ruin something or surprise myself. Sometimes what seem to be missteps and their subsequent repairs create an unexpected image that feels like a found gift. The history of the process leaves a record of erasures and mistakes that’s more interesting than anything I could have intentionally planned. Creating problems to solve and choosing which mistakes to keep are integral to the evolution of each work. Different bodies of work may vary in subject matter and focus, but this process is foundational to all my work.

A recent body of work called “Portable Cave Paintings” began as I puzzled over how to sew a shirt. How would I be able to make this flat piece of canvas wrap around the contours of my body? I laid down on a piece of canvas and traced my torso. The resulting image was a reminder that we can never see ourselves, in our entirety. In an essay called “Eye and Mind,” Maurice Merleau-Ponty writes about how sight is attached to a moving body in space. With this in mind, I kept tracing parts of myself, just the ones I could reach, and continued on. The resulting images are a direct record of their making. They are on un-stretched canvases, easy to fold and carry around. I thought about our earliest ancestors living in caves and the different people who traveled through those spaces for thousands of years leaving their marks. This metaphorically relates to the artist populations to which I belong—entering spaces, changing neighborhoods, and moving on. When I moved to New York in 2000, the spaces I searched for were referred to as “Live/Work” spaces. These were usually commercial raw loft spaces that could be rigged to live in, albeit primitively. I wondered, when did living and working become separated, and which category would art making fit into?

In the “Problem Solving” series, I took my studio process as a cue to consider how interpersonal relationships can be negotiated when complications arise. The yellow ground of each work is the first layer of a print that was started for another artist’s project but eventually became my own. The artist Nancy Lupo was preparing for an exhibition at the gallery I co-founded with three other artists called SOLOWAY, in Brooklyn. We were going to print posters for Nancy’s exhibition, but the creative direction changed. These abandoned prints became the base for “Problem Solving,” a series of pieces resulting from online searches for advice on resolving interpersonal conflicts. The advice was geared towards workplace settings and romantic situations. I integrated this text along with abstract elements to complete what was a “failed” project. The language of abstraction became an essential tool in communicating the unknowable, the non-verbal, and the inexplicable.

Amateurism, such as the advice I found for “problem solving,” and rudimentary mark-making techniques are important restrictions I have elected to place on my practice. These devices (aside from being practical and cost effective) are the most direct way for me to try to communicate. My studio work is solitary and contemplative, but it is fed by the collaborative work I do running a gallery with other artists. Negotiating relationships and learning from the other artists we work with is a constant education and laboratory experience. We celebrate the human-scale over the monumental, and facilitate a generative hub for cross-disciplinary dialogue. This exchange of ideas gets digested in the studio and continues to inform my work.

Education and Awards

2006   MFA Painting, Bard College Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York

1999   BFA Printmaking, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island

 

Exhibitions

2015
SMASH, BFA, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Mixed Doubles, Sometimes, New York, NY, curated by Ryan Wallace
LIVE/WORK, Soloway Gallery, Brooklyn, NY, (solo exhibition, artist run space)

2014
Finish My Novel, LMCC Govenor’s Island, NYC curated by Ethan Hauser
Redemptions, Andel 31 / Share 31, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Collective Show Mexico City, Mexico, organized by Eyelevel BQE
Kiki Bouba, curated by John O’Connor, Barbara Walters Gallery, Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY

2013
Fruit Stand, curated by Paul Branca, Long Island City, Queens NY
Collective Show Mexico City, Mexico organized by Eyelevel BQE, Neter and Silvershed
Spring, The Willows, Brooklyn, NY
Dogs vs. Cats, Soloway Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
Friends With Benefits, Lorimoto Gallery, New York

2012
Written By Snakes, Churner and Churner Gallery, New York, New York
Short Visit di Canedicoda, MARSÈLLERIA, Milan, Italy

2011
Grand Tour Low Cost, Spazio Morris, Milan, Italy
Feelers, Soloway, Brooklyn ,NY, curator
New Shape/Take the Square, Soloway, Brooklyn, New York
The Dependent Art Fair, NYC

2010
Dirty Hands, Soloway Gallery, New York

2007
Gimme a Little Sign, Sister Gallery, Los Angeles
Art/Work, Brookyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn, New York

2006
Surface Tension , The Painting Center, New York, New York
Voice: Women in Contemporary Art, Providence Art Club, Providence, RI, curated by Kara Walker, awarded first place by curator

2005
Downtown for Democracy, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York
Bard MFA Exhibition, UBS Bard College, New York
Full Fathom Five, Space 1026, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

2002
Store Front, (joint exhibition with Jungil Hong), Dirt Palace, Providence, RI
Fantastic Patterns, St. Marks Bistro, Brooklyn, New York.
Home – made, pioneers and public art, Revolving Museum, Lowell, MA
Generations III, A.I.R. Gallery, New York, New York

2001
Side Show, Las Sucias Studios, Brookyn, New York
Immaculate Corpse, Nautilis Fine Art, Bock Island, Rhode Island

1999
Degree Project Exhibition, Woods Gerry Gallery, Providence, Rhode Island

 

Awards
2006
Elaine de Kooning Award, Bard College, New York

2006
First place awarded by curator Kara Walker, Voice: Women in Contemporary Art, Providence Art Club, Providence, RI,

1999
Matthew Hodge Ritchie Award for Excellence in Printmaking, RISD

 

Bibliography
2015
Kincheloe, Liu Megan, “Workerism: Annette Wehrhahn at Soloway Gallery” February 14, 2015, Art Critical online magazine

2011
Tagliafierro, Marco, “Spazio Morris Ospita New York”, Flash Art (Italian)
“Grand Tour Low Cost, Soloway at Spazio Morris”, Milan Italy, Corrier Della Sera, September
“Best Things to do in art this week”, Time Out New York, July 11, 2011
Levy, Michelle,”One Night Only – The Dependent,” artslant.com, http://www.artslant.com/ny/articles/show/22067

2010
Johnson, Paddy, “Dirty Hands at Soloway,” Art Fag City, October 13, 2010
“Best New Gallery: Soloway,” New York Press, New York, October 27
“Best of Manhattan 2010”, New York Press, Wednesday, October 27

2007
Brooks, Amra, “Must See Art”, LA Weekly, June 21, 2007, p 42.
Pagel, David, “When Slacker Artists Go Abstract”, LA Times, July 13, 2007, p. E26 – E27
SOLOWAY artists run space, Brooklyn NY co-founder and director since 2010, soloway.info

 

Visiting Artist Lectures and Appointments

2013-2014    Make Your Own Art World, Visual and Critical Studies Department, School of Visual Arts, New York

2014   The History and Practice of Perspective, Visual and Critical Studies Department, School of Visual Arts, New York

2014   Visiting Critic, Fine Arts Department, Parsons, New York

2013   Visiting Artist, Ohio State University, Painting Department

2013   Visiting Critic, Columbia University MFA, New York

2011 & 2013 Zephyr, MFA Art Criticism & Writing, School of Visual Arts

2009 – 2011 Mentor, Art Institute of Boston, MFA Painting

2009   Visiting Critic, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Painting

2008   Visiting Artist, University of Knoxville Tennessee, Painting

2008   Teaching Assistant, Fine Arts, School of Visual Arts, New York