Karolina Jabłońska
How to be invisible

2 February until 7 March

 Esther Schipper is pleased to present How to be invisible, Karolina Jabłońska’s first solo exhibition with the gallery.

Premiering a new suite of paintings, How to be invisible brings together a significant body of work that foregrounds the relationship between visibility and invisibility. Taking a song by singer-songwriter Kate Bush as a point of departure, Jabłońska’s paintings delve into the complex desire for invisibility, a sentiment often born from challenging personal circumstances or significant political events. The exhibition explores both the longing to disappear from view and the countering desire to be seen and recognized, a dilemma of particular poignancy for an artist. Drawing inspiration from a diverse array of literary and art historical sources, among them books by the writers Lidia Yuknavitch and Deborah Levy and the lives and work of pioneering female artists such as Maria Lassnig, Jabłońska firmly roots the new paintings in the particularities of female experience, even if her personal observations resonate with much wider significance for society at large. 

In seeking to explore how these two opposing sentiments manifest, the artist populates her large-scale canvases with motifs that play on the tension between visibility and invisibility. The new works feature Karolina Jabłońska’s recurring protagonist – a generalized self-portrait with identifiable features, captivating facial expression, expressive eyes, and prominent bushy eyebrows. In these paintings, the figure is depicted in various scenes of daily life, moving between interior domestic spaces and outdoor landscapes. At the core of each composition is the notion of concealment—whether it‘s hiding beneath a cascade of leaves, finding refuge in the confines of a wardrobe, or donning neutral-colored clothes to seamlessly merge into a crowd. In Jabłońska’s images, clothing, objects, and natural elements become tools to shield from being seen. Paradoxically, by attempting to hide, the figure’s presence only becomes more pronounced. 

A number of new works depicting domestic settings, among them Red Preserves and Fridge, continue to explore a central theme in the artist’s practice, namely the traditional role assigned to women. Red Preserves, for example, which presents a severed head apparently stored in a jar alongside other pickled fruits and vegetables, suggests an allegory for the entrapment of women, and by implication the existential threat to their bodies and restrictions imposed by political realities. Yet, whilst the work addresses the confinement of women within the domestic sphere, it also draws attention to the ways food can serve as a source of comfort. Inscribing multiple layers of meaning, Jabłońska unveils the complexities of navigating female experience.

Having been an important recurring motif since the start of her practice, Jabłońska’s self-portrait acts as a tool to explore multiple identities and emotional states. Her presentation of figures braving dreary weather conditions set in the Polish countryside, such as Head in the Grass and Misty Woods, suggest analogies between weather conditions and mental and physical states. Appearing as desolate landscapes, in turn drenched, muddy or icy, her forest scenes emerge as sites for exploring personal feelings, all the while fully aware of the deceptive straightforwardness of such analogy —and wittily embracing the long history of employing landscape motifs as atmospheric markers.

Jabłońska’s compositions often suggest strong emotions that evoke a visceral response in the viewer. We feel the freezing cold, even if her pictorial alter ego, hiding in a fridge or with her head in the wet grass, appears not to mind. Everyday situations—such as putting on a pair of tights or taking a stroll in the outdoors—take on a suggestive power in their monumental size. By pairing dramatically distorted points of view and expressive color, Jabłońska skillfully manipulates her medium to forge fictional narratives that explore the interiority of women, their desires, and ideas concerning sociability.

Karolina Jabłońska was born in 1991 in Niedomice, Poland, and currently lives and works in Kraków. She studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków. Residencies and fellowships include Scholarship in Vysoká škola uměleckoprůmyslová v Praze UMPRUM (2014-2015), LIA Programme Residency, Spinnerei Leipzig (2018), Fern Residency, Brussels (2021), Fores Project Residency, London (2022). 

Jabłońska’s works have been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions internationally. Notable institutional exhibitions include: Dinner, Piana Gallery, Kraków (2023); The Discomfort of Evening, Zachęta National Gallery of Art (2022); Mainly for Women, SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah (2021); Sensation: Closer to the people, Kunstverein Schattendorf (2019); Paint also known as Blood, Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw (2019). 

In the spring of 2024, Jabłońska’s work will be presented in a solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Sopot, and a group exhibition at the Dallas Contemporary Art Museum. A monograph is forthcoming in May 2024.

Annette Kelm
Objektwahl

2 February until 9 March

Esther Schipper is pleased to announce Objektwahl, a special presentation with works by Annette Kelm whose representation was announced in January. On view will be seven photographic works.

A small introduction to Kelm‘s expansive and varied oeuvre, Objektwahl includes works created between 2017 and 2024. Four works from the artist‘s small series Jeans Buttons are installed in a grid, emphasizing the works‘ serieal quality. Depicting the same section of a blue Jeans Jacket, each work features a different constellation of statement buttons attached to the front of the garment. From singular „International Women’s Day, 8 March 1975“ or „Have a Gay Day“ to a cacophony of political causes from distinct time periods, Jeans Buttons bring to mind the importance of activist gestures in everyday life. The works emphasize the political struggles in lived experience, both as a reference to the fluctuating popularity and the often only episodic progress in advancing political causes but also as a hopeful gesture of continued belief in the possibility of change. 

Exhibition view: Annette Kelm, Objektwahl,
Esther Schipper, Berlin, 2024

Courtesy the artist and Esther Schipper, Berlin/Paris/Seoul
Photo © Andrea Rossetti

Still-life with Spring is another characteristic example of Kelm‘s idiosyncratic subject matter, bringing together inexpensive design objects, both mass produced and crafted, and a bouquet of flowers, all posed before bright blue surfaces. A small coil is seen perched on the table: the „spring“ in the work‘s title adds a visual pun and in ist recognition, a moment of levity. Behind the economical conjuring of a colorful, yet also unexpectedly meaningful, motif lurks a sense of todays‘s living conditions, a cobbled together scene that speaks to the conditions of modern living in a world of inexpensive design and found objects. 

Good Morning and Cola Meise both find beauty and serendipitous humor in everyday objects. The most recent work in this presentation, Cola Meise depicts an empty Coca-Cola bottle with a stopper in the shape of a surprisingly life-like wooden bird against a bright red background that has slight creases creating darker folds.
Annette Kelm, Cola Meise, 2024. Image © the artist Awash in red, the work has a playful quality but also approaches near abstraction with its expanse of color. (It recalls Joseph Albers‘s famous dictum about the subjectivity of color, in effect saying: everyone sees their own Coca-Cola red.) Good Morning takes as point of departure an unfolded napkin, placing small plastic flowers on and around the item, echoing its repeated, gridded floral motif, and pinning it to board. A dusty black cable cuts across the seeming sweetness of the subject matter: the electrical cord belongs to the flashlights used for the shoot. The self-referential gesture is at the core of Kelm’s practice whose works are always infused with a deep knowledge of and reflection on the medium of photography and its history.

Annette Kelm was born in 1975 in Stuttgart, Germany. Annette Kelm studied at Hochschule für bildende Künste, Hamburg. She received numerous awards and prizes, among them Camera Austria Prize (2015); Preis der Nationalgalerie, Audience Award (2009); and Art Cologne Prize for Young Artists (2005). She lives and works in Berlin.

 

Annette Kelm’s selected solo exhibitions include: Die Bücher, ICA-Milano, Milan (2022); Die Bücher, Berlin Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin (2022); Die Bücher, Kunsthalle zu Kiel (2022); Geld, Deutsche Bundesbank (Federal Bank of Germany), Frankfurt am Main (2020); Annette Kelm, Auswärtiges Amt (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Berlin (2019); Tomato Target, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (2018); Peter and Irene Ludwig Foundation, Aachen (2018); Fosun Foundation, Shanghai (2018); Leaves, Kestnergesellschaft, Hannover (2017); Detroit Affinities, MOCAD, Detroit (2016); Home Home Home, Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld (2015); Staub, Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne (2014); No such Things as History; Four Collections and One Artist, Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton, München (2014); Hallo aber, Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn (2011); Annette Kelm, Kunsthalle Zürich, Zurich (2009); Annette Kelm, KW – Institute für Zeitgenössische Kunst, Berlin (2009); Annette Kelm, CCA Wattis, Institute for Contemporary Art, San Francisco (2008); Annette Kelm, Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam (2008).

Her work was presented in international biennials and survey exhibitions, among them in Illuminations, 54th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia (2011). The artist’s work is held in the collections of various institutions including: 33 Art Center, Guangzhou; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas; Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin; Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Henry Art Gallery, Seattle; Hessel Museum of Art, Annandale-On Hudson; Kaiser Wilhelm Museum, Krefeld; Kulturstiftung des Bundes, Halle an der Saale; Kunsthalle zu Kiel; Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna; Kunsthaus Zürich, Zurich; Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, Stuttgart; Lenbachhaus München, Munich; LWL Museum für Kunst und Kultur Münster, Münster; MOCA Grand Avenue, Los Angeles; mumok, Vienna; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museum of Modern Art New York, New York; Sammlung zeitgenössischer Kunst der Bundesrepublik; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Sprengel Museum, Hannover; Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Stuttgart; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Tate Modern, London; Walker Art Center Minneapolis, Minneapolis; FRAC Grand Large – Hauts-de-France, Dunkerque; Louis Vuitton Stiftung; and Mudam Luxembourg.