The Absorbing Depths of Monique van Genderen’s Constellation of Paintings

It was Heraclitus who proclaimed, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” This aphorism echoes through the work of Monique van Genderen. For her solo exhibition at Ameringer | McEnery | Yohe in New York, the artist has created the large-scale painting Untitled (2014), alongside six smaller paintings comprising extracts of the first. Together they form a body of work of continuous movement and endlessly shifting grounds.

Untitled, constructed with oil paint on linen, is a departure from many of van Genderen’s earlier works, which employed commercial materials like vinyl, sign paint, enamel, or adhesive tape, and were frequently applied directly to walls. Through this work, which spans 100-by-140 inches, van Genderen exults in the painting process. One is tugged gently by the ebb and flow of generous pinks, blues, blacks, and whites accented by lime green, yellow, grey, and brown. Van Genderen’s brushstrokes range from streaky to lush, and her colors move from saturated hues to thin washes, applied like so many transparent glazes. Paint drips orient the work’s orbit back toward earth, enforced by a purplish vertical band that brings us to the edge, without ever fully reaching it. Even as the canvas remains remarkably centered and balanced, van Genderen’s broad strokes seem to encompass full sweeps of her body.

Of the six smaller works, more than one returns to the same swathe of Untitled, though little effort is made toward exactitude. These paintings are less excerpts than elaborations on the original, adding flourishes or revealing new depths of the whole. Van Genderen has long tussled with the history of high modernism and abstraction, but her works remain unapologetically contingent. This constellation of six paintings stake out separate temporal moments, in which van Genderen shows us that by stepping into her waters, both the work and the artist have been changed. You too will never be the same.

—Amanda Sarroff

Monique van Genderen is on view at Ameringer | McEnery | Yohe, New York, Oct. 9th–Nov. 8th, 2014.

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