The UAG presents Katherina Olschbaur's "Dirty Elements"

"Dirty Elements," 2019, Oil on Linen, Diptych 78.75 x 157.5 inches (200 x 400 cm)


Katherina Olschbaur
Dirty Elements

Curated by Allyson Unzicker
Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) Gallery
On View: January 11 – March 14, 2020
Opening Reception: January 11, 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm

IRVINE, Calif. – UC Irvine’s University Art Gallery is pleased to present a series of new paintings by Austrian-born, Los Angeles based artist Katherina Olschbaur in Dirty Elements, her first solo institutional exhibition in the U.S. On view in the Contemporary Arts Center Gallery January 11th through March 14th, 2020, the opening reception will be held on Saturday, January 11th from 2:00 pm until 5:00 pm.

The law is not patriarchal because it denies the existence, even the power, of women...The law is patriarchal because it denies the bodies, sexualities of women. In patriarchy, there is no menstrual blood.
–Kathy Acker

Olschbaur provides a female perspective to a history of canonized male painters, whose work simultaneously inspires her. Although traces of matriarchal order in Western thought typically appear as a mythological apparition, Olschbaur paints a narrative that subverts our expectations under the normative language of patriarchy. For Olschbaur, art historical tropes are appropriated and used like garments, worn then cast aside in a process that is ever changing and moving within each work. In this way, Dirty Elements investigates the power dynamics of patriarchal order and its violent denial of female sexuality. Referencing a wide spectrum of thought, Olschbaur’s practice takes root in mythology, religious and historical paintings, the subcultures of S/M, and film. Embracing Georges Bataille’s concept of the formless, the paintings explore the dirty elements of our carnal nature. In so doing, they feature provocative and erotically charged scenes that are at times humorous and disturbing.

Olschbaur’s practice involves a process of fervently sketching out these scenes before painting them. Working in a wet-on-wet process, she paints on a malleable surface that is in a constant state of disruption, where scenes formulate out of an amalgam of autobiographical, historical and imaginary narratives. In this layered process, her paintings elicit the expressive freedom to create order that only leads to disorder. By creating angular compositions, tension builds between the narratives by disallowing any singular perspective. This dense and meditative space is reflected by focusing on representations of the body as a site of repressed desire. Placing gender constructs into question, figures are seen bound, trampled or falling into animated plasticity. The backdrops are dark and ominous landscapes formed through a mirage of artificial colors, while the foregrounds are pregnant with smooth glossy bodies that sometimes transpose into animals. Without relying on meaning alone, the works contemplate a space between seduction and malaise, moving beyond the silent surface of the canvas.