Absolute Darlings

20 April – 15 June 2024
Robert Grunenberg is delighted to announce “Absolute Darlings” by Brandon Lipchik.

Absolute Darlings
Robert Grunenberg
20.04.2024 – 15.06.2024

„Absolute Darlings“ is Brandon Lipchik’s new series of paintings depicting his closest circle: friends, family members, employees, and creative collaborators. They include his Berlin gallerist Robert Grunenberg, Lipchik’s sister Nicole – or the artist and fashion icon Ivana Vladislava, who is known for masterfully combing haute couture and an anti-fashion in her own extreme style.

As in earlier series by the American artist based in Berlin, the figures were rendered on the computer and then transferred onto the canvas with a brush. Whilst the protagonists in his paintings have so far remained anonymous and faceless, Lipchik claims these as portraits for the first time. In „Absolute Darlings“ his style becomes more naturalistic, gestural and flowing. However, these “portraits” are more like clones, as the subjects are composed of different figures, depicted from different angles and throughout several sessions. “Absolute Darlings” are always an entity consisting of a certain personalities and something like a Frankenstein monster. A sampling of people and moments. Lipchik creates a burlesque, robotic version of the term “network painting” coined in the early 2000s, in which the artists visualize their respective networks in their paintings. In doing so, they want to suggest that painting does not only take place on the canvas, but is simultaneously a social and economic process that additionally shapes a work of art. In Lipchik’s case, this network has not grown but, as in Witness of a Creation, Intertwining Pile in Vines or Android Painter, has been produced synthetically in a kind of paradisiacal science fiction laboratory.

Their campy drama, their extreme montage and their artificiality, these completely unnatural bodies reflect virtual realities, avatars, radical body modifications, cyborgs, as well as new queer and trans identities. At the same time, they pay homage to past avant garde. Additionally the works contain the erotic intensity, horror and melancholy of the gothic. Lipchik’s images are reminiscent of the feminist philosopher Mary Shelley and her Frankenstein, of the dandyism of Lord Byron and Percy Shelley. Queer theory views Gothic art and literature, populated by Doppelgängers, monsters, ghosts and the undead, as a discursive space. Similar to his painting, it is about difference, otherness, marginality and the culturally constructed boundaries between the normal and the abnormal. However, Lipchik’s work also contains echoes of the bold aesthetics of post-war queer underground cinema. Thus made history between 1950 and 1968 with the experimental films of Gregory Markopoulos, Marie Menken, Ken Jacobs, Andy Warhol and Jack Smith’s legendary Flaming Creatures (1963).
The artist generates an updated version of the queer Frankenstein myth. In which the painting and literature of Romanticism, the queer underground of the sixties and the identity discourses of the 1990s and 2000s are combined with post-human thinking. The figures in his paintings, such as Angel with Daisy or Dancer at Twilight , convey an early modern retro decadence that reproduces and collages elements from Symbolism, Art Nouveau and Futurism. In Android Painter, the Pre-Raphaelites with their historicizing painting echo just as much as the reminiscences of Expressionism and Art Deco from Fritz Lang’s 1927 film Metropolis with its robot woman Maria.

Undoubtedly Lipchik’s painting is also about “machine people”, about new connections between the organic, technologies or AI, and about an era that will radically change people, relationships and art. However, this Modernism 2.0 is not driven by the belief in progress and the energy of the early 20th century, but rather by uncertainty. Similar to the “feminist” Frankenstein creature Bella Baxter played by Emma Stone in Giorgos Lanthimos’ film Poor Things (2023), who is implanted with the brain of her own unborn foetus, the cloned beings in Lipchik’s pictures also appear as if they are experiencing everything anew, rediscovering the world. As with Lanthimos, the scenery is fantastic, morbid, decadent and modern. But it is also always about emancipation and saying goodbye to an old, outdated society whose rules no longer work.

Lipchik combines this rebellious feeling with an homage to German Neo-Expressionism, which is mounted or implanted in his painting just like the early modern art movements. With “Absolute Darlings”, he pays homage to an almost forgotten ancestor, the painter Eugen Schönebeck, born in 1936 and the little-known father of the new German figuration. Together with Georg Baselitz, he turned against established abstraction and, at the beginning of the 1960s, called for a more physical, existential and also more political art that would finally deal with the repressed consequences of war and National Socialism. Only a few years later, Schönebeck stopped painting and withdrew from the art world. He left behind an idiosyncratic oeuvre that has only been appreciated in recent decades. This includes large-format portraits of various revolutionary “heroes of the East” such as Lenin, Trotsky and Mao, as well as the Russian avant-garde poet Mayakovsky. Schönebeck does not show these historical figures as socialist heroes, but de-individualizes them into patched-up constructs and historical projection surfaces, often held up by improvised wooden crosses.

In Lipchik’s paintings such as Shrieking Doll, Sultry Boys in Golden Leaves or Valentina the Moon Gazer , the deconstructed figures also stand next to architectural elements such as columns, pedestals and scaffolding and are supported or carried by them. We see anti-heroic, fragile, fluid identities and constellations that can change or collapse at any time. Not only formally, but also in their alienation, Lipchik’s figures come astonishingly close to Schöbeck assembled, ambivalent portraits from the post-war period and the portraits of the digital age. The days of the heroes are over. Beneath the hedonistic pleasures, the experiments with identity and individuality, trauma, alienation and disillusionment lurk in Lipchik’s work, which can only be overcome through new forms of community, friendship and connection.

20 April 2024
6 – 9 PM

Exhibition on view
20 April – 15 June 2024

For more information, please contact the gallery:  mail@robertgrunenberg.com

This exhibition is supported by