Point Blank is the title of the exhibition of four new paintings by Berlin based German painter Marcel Eichner (b. 1977, Siegburg, Germany) at James Fuentes Gallery, New York. In this show, Eichner works in acrylic and ink, with vigorous ink drawing and marks on broad washes of acrylic ground in pastel pinks and blues, and areas of white. These paintings mark the fulfillment of a new phase in Eichner’s approach to painting, since he has now moved away from his earlier idiom derived from the style of his mentor at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Jörg Immendorff. In his earlier work, Eichner emulated the piecework integration of figure and ground that is characteristic of Immendorff, an almost claustrophobic “interior-view” aesthetic so often found in the German Expressionist tradition.The broad spatial washes and ink painting found in these new canvases indicate Eichner’s looking now toward the lineage of pioneers of this drawing on ground approach found in the liberating graffiti-inspired paintings of Jean-Michel Basquiat. There is also some of the bite and manic humor we associate with Saul Steinberg to be found in Eichner’s work.
Among his subjects, Eichner exlores dystopian landscapes populated by crazy machines as found in his Waste Land (2017). It’s as though the German industrial Ruhr Valley had broken down beyond repair. Even the coal-mine bucket-wheels don’t work anymore. Yet we see an indication of hope or redemption on the horizon in this painting. Toward the top, Eichner incribes the initials “A D”. What does this mean? It could stand for “Anno Domini”, or perhaps “After Deconstruction”. Yet another possibility may be the ambitious initials of Germany’s master draughtsman Albrecht Dürer.
The stand-out painting in this show is Eichner’s Behemoth (Emma) (2017). Its title recalls God’s revelation of his nature to Job, when he created, ex-nihilo, this creature along with Leviathan. At first I thought this painting might be a crypto-self-portrait, but the subtitle “Emma” clearly indicates this image as female. She is gaudy and flamboyant. In this piece, Eichner’s facility for gesture and line opens up in a spontaneous versatility. The canvas features any number of splendid marks bringing the figure to life, including fugitive imagery of faces, suggesting further identities and motives, looking to take their place in the narrative and composition.
Yet there may still be autobiographical elements in this piece, that is, imagery from the unconscious. This may include a pre-Oedipal introject, which is found in the dream-material of early psychoanalysis. Or this creature could be a portrait of the artist’s Jungian anima figure, and so of negotiation, internal and external. In any case, the expression on the face of this creature is especially telling. With her three eyes, her head moves from right to left, and she appears rather melancholy, as though she isn’t sure if she’s more Beatrice or actually a Jocasta. Marcel Eichner has given us a splendid beast here, with her malodorous eyes and arabesque tail, and we look forward to whatever other creatures and mysteries Eichner may have in store for us.
Donald Lindeman majored in Art History at Colgate University, BA, 1974, and earned his MA in Art History, Columbia University, New York, 1976. From1993 to 2007, he was indexer and then Assistant Editor at Art Index, H.W. Wilson Co (metadata since sold to EBSCO). His MA thesis was “The Art of Paul Kleein Transition: 1918-1925.”