"If Anyone Hurts My Brother, I'll Kill That..." is Rita Ackermann's new show, featuring eight paintings whose titles come together to form a sort of poem:
I can move mountains
I can predict monsoons
and I can reach the sky
and I can walk on fire
I can tame the savage
and jump over cliffs
and I can break glass with my voice
but I know that I will never be a good skier
The works form a modulated whole as well, a series of snapshots of a young boy on a mountain excursion. A writer who visited Ackermann's studio to see the works in progress took the following notes:
...Somehow these new paintings are all very passionate. I told Rita they reminded me of Caspar David Friedrich, rather sublime but vulnerable---is there a sublime predicated not on danger in nature but vulnerability in man? It's an unconscious vulnerability as well, since the little boy himself doesn't seem to acknowledge any sense of danger: to the contrary, the mountains excite him, and it is only our adult vantage point that projects vulnerability onto him, as though a littler man is more susceptible to the elements than a grown up one. This relation between the boy's daring-do and our solicitude is just one of the incredible tensions in the new pictures: the harsh color schemes versus the serenity of the compositions, the spontaneous backgrounds versus the carefully modeled figures.
Are there artists who are unconsciously spinozistic? Spinoza would describe the evolution of Rita's new work as a struggle to move from sad to joyful passions and finally to powers of action. This is to say that violence moves from the superficial level of content to the profound level of form, that violence takes the form of creation rather than destruction--the violence of shifting plates and boiling magmas heaving up new mountains.