Painting, performance, and fashion – you can hardly miss Eliza Douglas these days. Now the artist is presenting her first solo exhibition in Berlin
Every now and then, reality evades language. In these cases, a gap shows up in its place, provoking ambiguity and culminating in its own interpretation. These unsaid things are called “empty space” in literary texts, a term taken from the aesthetics of reception. It is only the reader who turns the text into an artifice by filling the void with associations. Or, like the title of Eliza Douglas’ current exhibition in Berlin – Old Tissues Filled with Tears.
In fourteen selected works, Douglas pursues the question of to what extent the technique of omission can now be applied to painting. How much of the body is needed to perceive it as such? And, to put it quite trivially, which body parts are the most important in constituting the human being behind them? If you look at the multitude of Douglas’ own photo-realistically depicted hands and feet, which seem to potentiate at the mercy of each other in the bright octagon of the Schinkel Pavillon, you are quickly back in the present. Of course, our hands breathe some life into the devices! Feet, on the other hand, seem almost useless and sentimental. But they round out the experimental arrangement and allow the body to be assembled in the mind itself – all despite the suggestion, concealment, and dissolution of corrupted corporeality. Douglas challenges the history of painting by confronting figurativeness with abstraction, liberating classical painting from its sanctity as a result.
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Parallels to fashion are also revealed here, as Douglas’ partner and fellow artist Anne Imhof recently described her own fascination: “[Fashion] is so in the moment but, at the same time, all about taking from history.” Alongside Imhof, Douglas has an editorial in the current issue of W Magazine in which the androgynous yet ethereal artist models with all kinds of smartphones, chargers, soft drinks, and the American Statue of Liberty. Lotta Volkova, who brought Douglas on for the first Demna Gvasalias Balenciaga show for AW16, was responsible for the styling. Douglas was already modeling for Helmut Lang as a teenager, and so it’s not surprising that the New York-born artist and muse of Gvasalia and Volkova has since regularly walked for Balenciaga and Vetements.
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After her studies at Bard College in New York, Douglas concentrated on painting during her studies at Frankfurt’s Städelschule, where she was in the classes of Monika Baer and Amy Sillman. She has also participated in Anne Imhof’s celebrated performances, including Angst II at Hamburger Bahnhof and Faust at this year’s Venice Biennale, for which Imhof was awarded the Golden Lion. In the autumn of this year, the two artists were shown in a joint exhibition for the first time at Galerie Buchholz in New York.
Eliza Douglas has now come to Berlin with Old Tissues Filled with Tears, and of course the artist, who lives in Frankfurt, had all eyes on her on the opening night. Her entrancing presence is striking, and not only due to her appearance – patterned blouse, cognac-colored leather coat, and Balenciaga boots. Rather, it is the intangible understatement that echoes in her works, an eloquent silence where everything blinks and pops. A refreshing promise.
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The exhibition Old Tissues Filled With Tears by Eliza Douglas is on show on the ground floor of the Schinkel Pavillon until the 21st of January, 2018. The Schinkel Pavillon is also presenting Oliver Laric’s first institutional exhibition, Panoramafreiheit, in parallel on the upper level. More information can be found on the website here.
Translation: Melissa Frost
Fashion, art, and pop culture are her cosmos; the written word, the material she uses to bring it all together. After studying in Leipzig, Lola Fröbe moved to Berlin in 2014. She works as a PR consultant and freelance journalist for publications such as L'Officiel, i-D, and Material Magazine.