Rochelle Feinstein. I made a terrible mistake

June 7, 2016 – September 18, 2016

"I Made a Terrible Mistake", "Find your Own Damn Voice", "Wrong"! As one might gather from these works’ titles, the paintings of New York-born artist Rochelle Feinstein (b. 1947) frequently talk. And they are opinionated.

Over a period of more than thirty years, Feinstein—also a long time professor of painting and printmaking at Yale University—has developed an oeuvre that probes the cultural and political implications of art making, and painting in particular, through an approach that could be described as self-conscious abstraction.

Before turning to painting in the early 1980s, Feinstein worked as an illustrator and fashion editor. From this experience, she drew a deep understanding of the symbiotic relationship between image and text. Speech—as exclamation, as statement, as cliché—is ubiquitous in Feinstein‘s work: speech bubbles seem to appear out of nowhere, titles are formulated in the first person or as orders. The question of who is speaking to whom is a continuing puzzle.

The presentation at Lenbachhaus focuses on the artist’s painting installations and series developed since the mid-1990s.

In the series titled "The Wonderfuls" (1990–1997) for instance, Feinstein applies the vacuity of the overused adjective wonderful to painting. The resulting works do not attempt to depict anything particularly "wonderful". Instead, they use the shortcomings of language as a cipher for the painting process, sidestepping clichés by stepping right into them.

In the multi-panel installation"Before And After" (1999), Feinstein presents painting as a demystified activity beginning as a supply item (a piece of canvas) and resulting in a (bubble-)wrapped object in a storage rack. Highlighting the studio process as well as the very material aspects and objecthood of painting, Feinstein’s work also raises questions about art that lacks representation and audience.

Another series on view is "The Estate of Rochelle F." (2009-2010), a 'pre-posthumous' estate assembled by Feinstein in response to the financial crisis of 2008. For the creation of the "Estate" works, the artist imposed a set of rules including a prohibition on new materials. Instead, Feinstein used supplies at hand: dishrags, bulky birthday presents and some of her own previous artwork. Typically dead-pan, the artist’s "Estate" is a contemplation on the finiteness of life and the permanence of the stuff that we accumulate.

Hierarchical differentiations between cultural categories dissolve in Feinstein‘s hands: Piet Mondrian and Michael Jackson, the Mona Lisa and the Smiley Face, Malevich’s Square and the I ♥ NY logo meet on an equal footing. This purposeful conflation of registers, however, is not intended as a gesture of transgression, but as a visual analogy to a daily reality formed by language.

The exhibition is one of three chapters of an exhibition tour co-organized with the
Centre d’Art Contemporain Geneva, Kestner Gesellschaft, Hannover and Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York.

Curated by Stephanie Weber