Rita Ackermann Shifts Gears Wildly at MOCA

Categories: Art
Courtesy of Jesus Rojas
Rita Ackermann World War III Around My Head
There is a reason Bonnie Clearwater calls Rita Ackermann an artist's artist. Some of the art world's biggest names --Tracy Emin, John Currin, Christopher Wool -- also count themselves as both big fans and peers who collect her work.

"I've never seen such a response to an artist from their peers as I have with her," says Clearwater, who organized the Hungarian-born, New York painter's exhibit currently on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami. "What they all see in her work is the honesty and depth of emotion," Clearwater adds.

MoCA's executive director and chief curator has followed Ackermann's career intently, and wrote the catalogue essay for Ackermann's show. She gave Cultist a personal tour of the sweeping exhibit that boasts 48 works from 1993 to the present. It includes paintings, drawings and collages, several which have not been previously publicly displayed -- all by a woman who Clearwater calls one of the most notable painters of her generation.

Courtesy of Jesus Rojas
Rita Ackermann My Way Is The Highy Way 1999
"[Ackermann's] work has great conviction and strength and truth," Clearwater describes. "There is nothing ironic about it. She has pushed her subject matter fearlessly as she has grown as an artist and the work is visceral and intelligent."

Courtesy of Jesus Rojas
Rita Ackermann World War III Around My Head
Ackermann left behind the ashes of communism in her homeland to forge her distinct visual language after an arduous immersion into Western culture. "After relocating to New York as a young woman after the fall of communism, Ackermann experienced newfound freedoms that contrasted with the isolation from the rest of the world in her native Hungary," explains Clearwater while standing in front of World War III Around My Skull, 1996-1997.

Ackerman's schizzy acrylic and ballpoint pen on linen painting reflects a nightmarish vision of displacement, choked with references ranging from masked cowboys to graffiti, braying horses, cartoon heroes, African masks, and skeletal monsters.

The primarily blue and red picture looks like a teenage boy's obsessive doodling, and even features a fedora-crowned commie apparatchik floating at the top of the composition, as if spying on scenes of Western decadence below. Beneath the disparate images carpeting the painting's surface, Ackermann has drawn a series of bunkers of the sort typically found dotting the Eastern European backwoods before the Berlin Wall was torn down.

"It has to do with the bunker mentality the artist grew up with," Clearwater says. Ackermann was also exploring notions of "creating something from the perspective of the male gender," the curator adds.

Courtesy of Jesus Rojas
Rita Ackermann In Da Shade, 2008
But as one navigates Ackermann's solo, what comes to mind is the type of Goulash Communism practiced in Hungary, known as the "happiest barracks in the communist camp," rather than the gulags of an oppressive regime.

One only needs to remember that Hungarians have been responsible for inventing plasma TV, holograpghy, the Rubik's Cube, the Mars Rover, and the ballpoint pen to figure out just how free creative types in this neck of the Carpathians were from the communist yoke.

Ackermann's work certainly doesn't convey suffering extreme hardships under Soviet Bloc rule. After all, she was one of the privileged few allowed to attend art school in Budapest and landed in the lap of New York's percolating 1990's underground scene on an arts scholarship.

It also appears Ackermann was a quick study at absorbing American pop culture. Plus, she arrived here rooted in enough art history to make an immediate impact on the scene while changing with the times.

Location Info


Museum of Contemporary Art

770 NE 125th St., North Miami, FL

Category: General

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