Artist biography

American painter. She graduated with an MFA from the School of Visual Arts, New York, in 1993. Her Girls' Wallpaper and Boys' Wallpaper (both 1996; see 1999 exh. cat., figs 5 and 6) marked the beginning of her distinctively graphic style of painting, with the repetition of dancers writhing and soldiers on manoeuvres representing female and male attributes respectively. The figures in her paintings are presented floating in front of a monochrome background, with a strong palette of colours and dense materiality of the surface enhancing the graphic, decorative style. A series of paintings made in 1997–8 feature these strange amputated figures in scenes of natural or cosmic disaster, as in Deluge (1998; Buffalo, NY, Albright-Knox A. Gal.). Here the characters tumble down a sheet of water, with the depiction more like a cartoon than a harrowing depiction of chaos. The disturbing element in Essenhigh's paintings arises from the mutation of her figures so that they seem part of the landscapes, their lack of heads or expressions connoting an absence of consciousness or individuality. The vivid colours give the paintings an atmosphere of hyperreality, with a clear narrative frustrated by the stylization of the composition. In an interview published in March 1999, Essenhigh described her paintings as being ‘about America: fake, fun, pop, violent, but also quite attractive'.

Bibliography
G. T. Turner: ‘Inka Essenhigh', Flash A., 32/205 (1999), p. 106
B. Schwabsky: ‘Inka Essenhigh: Stefan Stux Gallery, NY', A.&Text, 62 (1998), pp. 85–6
American Landscapes: Recent Paintings by Inka Essenhigh (exh. cat., Buffalo, NY, Albright-Knox A. Gal. 1999)

CATHERINE M. GRANT
10 December 2000

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