Falk GernegrossHerz, Karo, Kreuz (2013)

I am not a painter. But of the dozen or so painters with whom I am acquainted, three are die hard adherents of mischetechnik.

I don’t claim to completely get the process but my understanding is that you construct a painting in layers. There’s an initial layer of underpainting that accentuates the shading. From their color is layered onto the image in a fashion so that light refracting off the layers creates the sort of randomization of color sheen that we expect of the world around us. (In other words: even a simple red isn’t really just one color–it consists of a range of so similar as to be nearly indistinguishable reds.)

You could probably tell from the fact that a notable percentage of the painters I know use the process, it’s very hip right now. And although I typically don’t care for the stuff people are employing it to paint–especially given that one of my all-time favorite paintings used the mischetechnik and very little that’s made subsequently improves upon Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Wedding Party.

Gernegross is not especially subtle or nuanced. He’s clearly obsessed with the mixed bag of joy and anxiety that accompanies adolescent sexual experimentation. But whereas other artist’s own this preoccupation, he presents adult looking surrogates in situations that are clearly intended to convey a post-pubescent reality.

I’m not entirely sure this works as a subliminatory strategy. I mean the defined bust of the girl in the red blouse and green skirt aside, this is clearly supposed to be two twelve year-old girls who were playing cards after school while sloshing wine nipped from the family liquor supply. They drink too much and things grow lusty.

Really, it’s probably the affronting style of the rest of his work that made him decide to build in a method of escape should he face criticism for the depiction, but honestly, save for the manner in which the girl on the bottom’s thong is positioned around her feet, there’s a matter-of-factness that’s worthy of Balthus–even if Balthus would’ve almost certainly rendered something more graphic than Gernegross’ explicit implications. But then Balthus’ was more interested in the ambiguity his work instilled in his audience than in ambiguity as a safety net against critical backlash.

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