Ellen Altfest: Paintings

This fully illustrated catalogue, with an essay by Barry Schwabsky, accompanied the exhibition at White Cube Hoxton Square. Painted directly from life, Ellen Altfest's work plays with the conventions of traditional genres: the nude and still life. Her subjects receive equal attention through a meticulous and labor—intensive approach to the act of painting. With refined and careful examination, Altfest records every crack and crevice of her subjects, radically cropping the compositions so they are charged with the impact of looking and a deadpan humour. With echoes of Altfest's recent paintings of cactuses, plants and tumbleweeds, three new works depict gourds in various states of decay. With its well-defined contours and rich hues, the robust presence of Green Gourd contrasts with the mottled white, grey and brown surface of Rotting Gourd. Beside these singular compositions, the cornucopia of twelve squashes crowded on a table in Gourds presents an autumnal harvest display in decline. Prolonged study and intense looking gives the subject an otherworldly presence, raising these humble, organic forms into palpable icons. In his catalogue essay Barry Schwabsky writes of Tumbleweed (2005): "when I look at this painting, I have the sensation of being able to perceive much more about what it shows than I would be able to perceive if I had the thing itself in front of me to look at directly."

White Cube; 2007; Hardcover; 10.75" x 8.5"; 56 pp; ISBN 9781906072094

Courtesy the artist and New Museum, New York