Amelie von Wulffen: Paare. Möbel. Landschaften.

by Donald Goddard

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Untitled John Travolta
Untitled (John Travolta), 2003.
32" x 12"

In the 1978 movie Grease, Olivia Newton-John sings the final lines of "Hopelessly Devoted to You" to an image of John Travolta that seems to float on the water below her. When the camera pulls back it is revealed that the water is in a small, circular child's pool at her feet. It is a scene that includes, however absurdly, all three of Amelie von Wulffen's categories: the pair (Paar), of Newton-John and Travolta; furniture (Möbel) in the form of the little pool; and the landscape (Landschaft) of the wider view that encompasses the other two.

Travolta appears twice photographically in von Wulffen's exhibition, also ephemerally, and perhaps absurdly, merged with a rock face and tree in one work, behind a bottle in the other. The movie is full of interplay between fantasy and vulgar reality and ends in a grand conflation of both, with a gaudy 1950s car carrying Travolta and Newton-John into the skies. Von Wulffen's conflations involve a different kind of romantic grandness, in which the images go in the other direction, receding into the past, emerging from memory. And how grand anyway that Travolta is here, that he is part of the landscape, or the still life, and therefore part of a traditional place in the European imaginative tradition.

Seltzer Bottles Rainbow
Untitled (Interior and seltzer bottles with rainbow colors)
, 2003.
Photo and acrylic on paper,
39" x 91.6"

Likewise Alexander Solzhenitsyn. He appears in three works, also photographically, always in a pin-stripe suit and with a white horse next to him in the foreground, charging Freudianly. His image materializes in a glowing sunset sky, inside the living room of a comfortable, prosperous family, and next to an image of the artist herself. The actor and the writer, from the West and the East, inhabit the furniture and the landscape, they inhabit the artist's life, dreams, and art like wood spirits inhabiting trees, streams, and rocks. The space created by von Wulffen is the space of her life and that of the history of which she is a part, extending in all directions of actual and virtual space, that is, in one case, across a beach with a few people and into a body of water that is actually rendered in brushstrokes, the transition at first being almost undetected. It is an imagined and a recorded space at the same time.

Geranium Chair Couple
Untitled (Geranium, chair, couple),2003.
Photo and acrylic on paper,
58.7" x 92.4"

The main character, the central eminence, is the artist herself. It is, after all, her space, and everything emanates uniquely from her--the people, the furniture, the landscape. Whatever exists in this world is what she has projected and gathered in her imagination, including Travolta, Solzhenitsyn, the trees, the old paintings on the walls, the lake, herself. At the core is her own sexuality--most specifically in two works where she appears with a young lover, both naked--and therefore her relationship to both the natural and the constructed worlds, including the world she has created as an artist. In one photographic work she has painted on her own face, which is seen from three different angles. Her face is given to the world as something created, or re-created by the artist herself. In other works, combining photographs and paint, her lips are lipsticked, but brushstrokes radiate outward from the photographed face in a web that engulfs her own face and other images as well in a kind of extended consciousness. Then, in the photographic montage Untitled (Garden Self-portrait), her face is engulfed in trees, as though the red leaves of the trees were her hair, and now the depth of vegetation is her consciousness.

Garden Self Portrait
Untitled (Garden self-portrait), 2003.
47" x 72"

At the end of the American movie Death of a Scoundrel of 1956, Yvonne de Carlo is seen in the opulent lobby of a mansion juxtaposed with the profile of a policeman silhouetted through the front door. Everything is contained in that shot--the story and its conclusion, the people and their fate. Von Wulffen's space is a movie space, in which everything is arranged as the mind, or the dream, might have them.

Donald Goddard © 2004

The exhibition was on view at Greene Naftali Gallery, 526 West 26th Street, New York, NY 10001.

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