For more than a decade, New York-based artist Ulrike Müller has been deploying a variety of approaches to question the emancipatory potential of modernist abstraction. Image formats and materials from the repertoire of art history meet those with clear references to everyday life and handicraft, establishing a notion of painting beyond brush and canvas.
With Container, her comprehensive solo exhibition at the Kunstverein für die Rheinlande and Westfalen, Müller transfers some of her compositional strategies to the exhibition space. By painting the walls of the Kunstverein, the architecture has been transformed into a three-dimensional pictorial space that one walks into. It becomes a container for a dynamic approach to painting, which simultaneously activates and disrupts medium-specific expectations and limitations – as the illustration on the invitation suggests.
Analogous to visitors’ movements in the space, individual image elements `flit´ from one group of works to the next. They repeat themselves selectively and alternately appear in the enamel paintings, carpets, monotypes, and collages created for the exhibition in Düsseldorf. The motifs of these compositions – such as circles, curves, and triangles, or shoes, vases, and cats – often come from tangible everyday objects or found illustrations. For example, the high-heeled shoes on the carpets are taken from a cobbler’s advertising sign, which was the template for Müller’s first work on enamel back in 2010. For her, drawings with such trivial content serve as templates for the industrially produced glass powder that she applied to steel plates, and then fuses in the kiln to form a hard layer of colored enamel. Or for the Rugs woven from local natural fibers by Zapotec weavers in Mexico. Lastly, the formal vocabulary characteristic of the artist appears in an accelerated way in her monotypes, the most recent group of works to be seen at the Kunstverein for the first time. This printmaking technique combines painting and drawing, thus interweaving her main approaches, while transparent, overlapping colored surfaces also animate the images.
In Ulrike Müller’s hybrid Container, painting is encountered as a decentered, polymorphic area of tension without clear limitations. It is circled over and again to mobilize instabilities and ambiguities beyond standardized patterns of experience and classifications.
Curated by Eva Birkenstock
The exhibition is supported by