Magazine article Artforum International

Lena Henke

Magazine article Artforum International

Lena Henke

Article excerpt

Lena Henke is an artist based in Frankfurt and New York and the cofounder of M/L Artspace. She has recently mounted solo exhibitions at White Flag Projects in Saint Louis, Skulpturenmuseum Glaskasten in Marl, Germany, and Real Fine Arts in New York. Her work is currently on view in New York in the New Museum's triennial "Surround Audience" and at Off Vendome.

1 LOSING GROUND (KATHLEEN COLLINS, 1982) This phenomenal comedy-drama was produced in 1982 but only premiered this past February in New York, on the occasion of the Film Society of Lincoln Center's series "Tell It like It Is: Black Independents in New York, 1968-1986." The film--which features several strong female characters and the paintings of Jack Whitten--follows Sara (Seret Scott), a philosophy professor embarking on an intellectual quest to understand ecstasy, and her husband, Victor (Bill Gunn), a painter preoccupied with young women. During a summer vacation spent in upstate New York, each finds a lover, and their relationship falls apart. In my favorite scene, Sara cuttingly compares her insensitive and flamboyant husband's penis to a paintbrush--and a failing one at that!

2 COOKIE MUELLER, WALKING THROUGH CLEAR WATER IN A POOL PAINTED BLACK (SEMIOTEXT[E], 1990) The late writer, dancer, musician, and mother Cookie Mueller is one of the most influential figures of the downtown avant-garde and a queer icon. She starred in many of John Waters's bawdy films, including Pink Flamingos (1972) and Female Trouble (1974); the former also featured her baby son, Max. In this book of short stories, Cookie details Max's excruciating birth on September 25, 1971, casting herself as some grand martyr of organ stretching. With this passionate telling of her life story, Cookie's candid, poetic voice moved me.

3 "REALMS OF IMAGINATION: ALBRECHT ALTDORFER AND THE EXPRESSIVITY OF ART AROUND 1500" (STADEL MUSEUM, FRANKFURT) Basically, this exhibition presented the sixteenth century's version of camp. One hundred twenty objects were on view, including paintings, prints, and illuminated books, but I was really struck by the wooden reliefs. Deformed and disfigured, the carvings are so expressive they seem truly perverse. Tiny heads, knobby legs, and unruly facial hair twist together and proliferate in action-packed murals and altarpieces. Even in these serious religious tableaux, the drama is amusing in its extremity. Against the naturalism of their contemporary Albrecht Durer, the artists in this show produced work that was anything but realistic. Currently on view (through June 14) at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

4 186F KEPLER Last summer, during Art Basel, I found a refreshingly guerrilla scene at 186f Kepler, Jeanne Graff's peripatetic and shape-shifting nonprofit institution, which here took the form of a relaxed exhibition space and restaurant run with artist Anina Troesch. One evening's highlight was a performance by Marie Karlberg (with whom I run M/L Artspace), starring the artist as "Mario" and Graff as "John." The duo wore mustaches they fashioned by trimming the ends of their hair and using clear tape to affix the clippings above their lips. The simple but powerful gesture blurred the boundaries of the male/female dichotomy in order to challenge societal norms. This year, 186f Kepler will host projects in Milan; Los Angeles; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; and New York.

5 HANUMAN BOOKS These pocket-size volumes have been trusty companions on many journeys. They fit perfectly in my fake Furla and can be enjoyed during a quick coffee break. …

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