From Sultry Absurdism to Irreverent Eroticism: Falk Gernegroß's "Le pique-nique"
Nino Mier Gallery is pleased to present Le pique-nique, an exhibition of paintings by German artist Falk Gernegroß. The artist’s first solo exhibition with the gallery, Le pique-nique features fifteen new works, offering a panoramic view of the artist’s approach to painting – from sultry absurdism to irreverent eroticism, renaissance figuration to Playboy pin-ups, close-cropped anatomy to full-scale genre scenes. The exhibition opens on May 26th and will remain on view through July 20, 2023.
Gernegroß paints teasingly, most often representing his subjects out of context against monochromatic backdrops. Despite the artist’s cropping techniques, each figure has a strong sense of individuality and character cultivated both by what is represented within the composition and what is strategically obfuscated from it. What the works withhold, precede, and wink at is their point; synecdochally or overtly, Gernegroß’s work invades otherwise chaste white-cube environments, disarming taboo and disregarding modesty and privacy.
At once, Gernegroß reprises Rococo joie de vivre, mobilizes YBA ‘sensationism,’ rephrases magazine-cover aesthetics, and asserts characteristic Leipzig school objective-figurative composition. In the title work, three subjects rest languidly on the shores of a peaceful beach. The vision of excess and repose recalls Bruegel’s The Land of Cockaigne, though the comedy of Bruegel’s indictment of sloth and gluttony is here a forthright reverie. The coterie of secondary narrative elements – the dog breaking the fourth wall, the forgotten picnic debris, a run-away hard boiled egg – offers a density of symbols equivalent to that of 16th century history and genre paintings. Proudly, Gernegroß bears the torch of the Renaissance. By Raphael and Boticelli’s example, he paints in candied, buoyant tempera and deploys line in appreciation of classical, humanist realism. His figures are sculptural, marble-finished, tracking aesthetic ideals from antiquity through the early 2000s, when the artist was beginning his career in a stone work studio.
The paintings on view proffer convincing fantasies of happiness, sex, and self-possession within and without the canvas. They heat the air around them. Voyeurs are welcomed enthusiastically; Le pique-nique’s petite furry white mascot, a symbol so often deployed in Baroque and Renaissance art, growls – or grins – at the foot of the painting. Gernegroß paints to flush cheeks, embarrass the modest, and call modern sexuality to the fore. Gaze and imagination flirt, silently and inescapably, with the works’ protagonists; so seductive are they and the tensions they inspire, viewer-voyeurs stand little chance at leaving the fantasy they create upon exiting the gallery.