Solo Exhibition at Galerie Martin Janda
Gray is a colourless color, like black and white but without their finality. It is more of a point zero between all the colors, a space where the polarity of back ad white ad all of the individual qualities of the separate hues are offset. The German Romantic Philipp Otto Runge said of gray that it was “entirely indifferent”, and with this characteristic it is appropriate to view painting in a context of other media - for instance, the gray painting transfers sculpture and architecture into an apparent architecture. Grisaille frequently stands for the transition from life to death, from real presence to the Echo of a memory in the painting.
In her first solo exhibition at Galerie Martin Janda, Melanie Ebenhoch shows a series of new works that appear like a distant echo from earlier times. The central motif is familiar, although in the recent works it is kept in gray: a curtain that reveals a view of the full moon over a landscape draped in fog. One might have regarded the melancholy scene and the composition as thoroughly romantic had its not been a kind of picture puzzle showing the real view of a female figure leaning forwards to look through her legs at the viewer and revealing her bottom as she does so. With the seas of mist, Ebenhoch not only inverts Caspar David Friedrich’’s rear-view figures who draw you into the painting, but references a practise that became extremely popular under the term “mooning”, but which actually goes back far further in time. The aggressive or foolish exposure yields, in Ebenhoch’s depiction, to an innocent intimacy where gentle modesty only competes for the viewers attention with the moon that rises bright ad cores between the girlish legs in the center of the painting.
Ebenhoch plays with inverting the perspective pf the regime of the gaze, but also with the stylisation
and exaggeration of the impact of the surprise, which is still effective even if there is absolutely no face to be seen in what is apparently the moon but actually the Universal Picture s globe instead. The gray coloring emphasises once more the careful composition of the picture, which is not solely oriented by the image of women in Hollywood films, melodramas in particular. Melodrama externalises internal conflicts and transfers them into conspicuously composed interiors. Ebenhoch is interested here in the way the protagonists are locked into the composition ad the space given within the image to psychological tension.
She also engages with the way actresses dealt with the restrictive images of women that they were increasingly expected to embody in the 1950s and 1960s. Because the existing corseted roles gave Jane Mansfield, for instance, too little room for manoeuvre she actively over-affirmed the cliché of the blond sex goddess. She welled, quasi, out of the mould that was already occupied by Jean Harlow and Marilyn Monroe. Once again Melanie Ebenhoch shows the actress’ estate in Los Angeles, the pink palace that Mansfield had redesigned for her legendary self-presentation. However, in the new version she moves it into a fantastic landscape with unreal lighting. By staging her exhibition as flashback, Ebenhoch alludes to the recent intensification of the blurred relationship between reality and fiction. Never before has the world outside, with the bright blue sky and the people on the streets, seems more unreal than during the lockdown.
Text by Anette Freudenberger