Jeanette Mundt’s dynamic, formally omnivorous practice mirrors the ever-changing velocity of culture. Her lush paintings freely tap a variety of input, ranging from Google image searches, Flickr accounts, magazines, and personal photographs to her own exhibition documentation. Each series that she creates begins as an attempt to confront the general nature of images on the internet, particularly the seemingly endless mutability that results when an image enters the digital world. In her different bodies of work, Mundt combines iconic references with others that are more personal and intimate in her quest to perpetually reconfigure the image—gesturing towards how our understanding is always in flux and therefore we can’t possibly be consistent in our seeing, in our psychic space.
Jeanette Mundt (b. 1982, United States) lives and works in New York. She has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions internationally at venues including the New Museum, New York; G2 Kunsthalle, Leipzig; Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster; Musée d’art Contemporain, Bordeaux; David Zwirner, New York; Company, New York; Overduin and Co., Los Angeles; Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York; Bridget Donahue, New York. Her work has been included in the 2019 Whitney Biennial, as well as the group exhibitions The Rest, Lisson Gallery; The Vitalist Economy of Painting curated by Isabelle Graw at Galerie Neu, Berlin; Painting: Now and Forever, Part III, Matthew Marks and Green Naftali, New York; Sputterances, Metro Pictures, New York.
I’d rather take a more, conceptual approach because I am not, interested in giving too much out. A different, approach is fine with me.
Does it matter that it’s a self-portrait?
In the end it does. When I first started painting this body—I call it “Climbing”, this body on all fours—it is taken from a Henri Toulouse-Lautrec painting of a prostitute on a bed (Red-headed Nude Crouching, 1897). I made a painting of that, in 2016, and then I thought, I might as well just make this a painting of myself, in the same position as the woman in the Toulouse-Lautrec painting because there is all the tension between the female painter, the female gaze, the female body, lifting it from the male gaze, blah, blah blah... So, I thought I’ll just start using myself. Then I wanted to increase the number of figures but I didn’t know how to use somebody else’s body. Why would I do that? Why would I use a model? Who would I choose? etc. I don’t want to play any games, in that weird decision-making hierarchy. I wanted to avoid all of that. So, I just began painting myself. So, I think when I made the initial decision it did matter that it was me on all fours. Then, when I wanted to paint more bodies it didn’t matter. But when I continued painting myself, I thought, oh no it actually does matter because of the denial of decision making. Do you know what I mean? It is a self-portrait in the end.
Because it’s like this multiplication of the self. It’s not about the individual, it becomes a template. I think with the multiplication or this crosshatching you are doing, suddenly it becomes less and less about exposure or vulnerability. The position of the prostitute in the original, where again it becomes about the gaze, whereas here there’s a strange twist happening. I find it interesting that the human figure could be an animal, that for me is the tension in the picture. We might know the reference of Edward Hopper or Toulouse-Lautrec, but then what you’re doing with it, there’s some awkward inability to place this space and the figure. The tension you are talking about, you’re denying the figure because the figure is cut up by the landscape. The landscape obviously doesn’t follow any logic either.
Suddenly on the right, the female bodies are actually crawling under the landscape in an impossible way. And on the left, the landscape is pressing onto the bodies like a burden. I think the way you painted it, this dry application and the sketchiness of it, you’re taking the authority back, or the vulnerable position of the female body, you’re taking that back. So, there’s all this potential power emerging.
It’s strange what happens for the viewer. Because I am somewhat displaced myself...
But that’s where I want you to be.
Yes, and it’s unusual that the painting has the power to do that with the viewer.
Is it? Do you think so?
Yes, because we are looking at this reference and my intellect tells me that I know what I am looking at. I know the image, I know the reference. But then the way you actually translated it, combined it, and repeated the movement, which makes them slightly different from each other, suddenly I question my own gaze.
That’s good...I mean I think that’s good.
The image comes from Hopper but the brushstroke looks more like this very dry encaustic Jasper Johns crosshatch.
I definitely understand. When I first made the marks I understood a viewer would see a reference to Jasper Johns, but that was not the point. The point was just to get colour onto the linen. Because it’s reverse stretched, so the gesso is on the back. So, the surface is raw linen and it’s really hard to actually get paint on there.
From up close it looks like you’re using the (painted) body like a palette.
Yes, totally. I feel like it’s a constant for me. I mean you know this: you make a mark and you think, ‘fuck this is the worst mark I’ve ever seen, I have to figure out how to hide it’. And then you keep doing this over and over and over again. Then you end up with whatever zone this is—the body-as-palette zone.
Art Basel Unlimited 2022
Wash Us With Fire
Société, Berlin 2021
Société is pleased to present Wash Us With Fire, Jeanette Mundt’s fourth solo exhibition with the gallery. The exhibition includes recent works from a series of paintings begun in 2018 based on photo composites of the 2016 United States Women’s Olympics gymnastics team originally published in the New York Times. Compressing a dynamic, durational event into a single, painted, static image, Mundt’s deft brushstrokes bring together divergent movements and temporalities. Yet while earlier works in the series seemed like they were stuttering, collapsing different temporalities into the single space of the picture plane, a number of Mundt’s most recent works, such as Best American (Aly Raisman I) seem to collapse time within the figure, producing hybrid bodies with manifold conglomerations of limbs. Mundt’s replications and reconfigurations of the body emphasize her source material’s techno-fetishistic mode of communicating, while also gesturing towards the violence inherent both in the sport and the nationalism of the Olympic games. The paintings’ red, white, and blue backgrounds mirror this interplay between nationalism and gender with their allusions to Color Field Painting. Unlike the earlier works in the series, which had some sort of anchor, albeit fragmented, in the space of the sports arena in Rio, the gymnasts depicted in Mundt’s most recent paintings inhabit a space of pure abstraction: riffs on Kenneth Noland’s Target Paintings, Barnett Newman’s zips, Helen Frankenthaler’s color fields, or Jasper John’s stripes. These Canonical references to modernist abstraction alternately threaten to subsume and are penetrated by slivers of the gymnasts’ bodies as they catapult themselves across the canvas.
In Wash Us With Fire, Mundt pairs such iconic references with others that are more personal or hermetic in her quest to perpetually reconfigure the image—gesturing towards how our understanding is always in flux and therefore we can’t possibly be consistent in our seeing, in our psychic space. Alongside her gymnast paintings, Mundt presents another recent series that, in contrast to the crisp, bold compositions of Born Athlete American and Best American, depict a darker, more ominous realm. An undefined blaze engulfs the shadowy figures that populate these works, unclear whether they are running towards or away from the flames.
Company Gallery, New York, 2020
Still American’s serialized reproductions exist, semi-altered, in a synergy of transference, from abstraction to figuration and back again. A re-ordering of collective recollection through a composite of styles and techniques, Mundt takes ownership and mastery of heavily utilized motifs in the history of painting: Landscape, Nude, Self-Portrait, then sets them ablaze. Fire itself, Mundt notes, is an elusive element to perfect, and a flicker of painter’s bravado. And within this unsettling production and reproduction of fire, Mundt establishes her narrative control.
Whitney Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2019
Painting: Now and Forever, Part III
Greene Naftali Gallery and Matthew Marks Gallery, New York, 2018
Vitalist Economy of Painting
Galerie Neu, Berlin, 2018, curated by Isabelle Graw
This painting is one in a series for which Jeannette Mundt worked with JPG images of tattoos by her partner Ned Vena. The motif—a death’s head that Vena himself wears on his skin—in turn derives from a skull painting by Van Gogh. The several layers of appropriation of visual material that went into Mundt’s picture are reflected by the peculiar way in which the motif shrinks from view: it looks like a faded and soiled copy of an orig- inal that is difficult to reconstruct. The blurring of the sketched skull—paint seems to bleed through the outline—likewise signals the reference to a source in the distant past. Meanwhile, by reproducing her boyfriend’s tattoo, the artist implies that what he wears as a symbol of his singularity is in fact indefinitely reproducible. Mundt’s series acknowledges her partner’s influence in her art and at once transcends it. Read as a tribute to Vena, the picture is apt to downplay any sense of competition between them. Read as an idiosyncratic adaptation of his artistic approach, it turns the traditional hierarchy between painter and muse on its head: Mundt, it emerges, is the “winner” in this relationship.
- Isabelle Graw
Lana del Rey
Société, Berlin 2018
I. Blind landing. Two-and-a-half twists in the air. Back handspring onto vaulting table. Roundoff onto spring- board. Reversal to transfiguration. Roundoff-one-and-a-half-twist step out-roundoff-back handspring-arabian double front-front layout salto. Splicing motion, mutilating time.
II. The “becoming subject”— the becoming Olympiad-blind landing out of Amanar; the becoming American- teenaged-tattooed; the becoming female-Blaze Pink into camouflage-latent hunter drive. Engendering and gendering the sport, not by rules but by an “immanent sense of the game,”* shared in a field: the necessity of play for the players; the production of durability thru corporeal dispositions; the gymnastic elasticity of bodies, stretched by fabric and time.
III. But what ensures this durability? The extensification of Edison’s originary electric pen, naval homosociality transfigured too, subsumed in punk aesthetic; “the social life of things,”** objects traveling on their own damn course—in and out of commodity, body to conjugal body...and yet the question’s the same: what is the boundary of pain, where the sea meets the sky and death resides.
IV. The becoming dead- “Spirit attains its truth only by finding itself in absolute dismemberment.”*** What is the process of this finding? Not annihilation, but incomplete destruction. The kind of time you start to see passing, death as anti-economy, vanitas in the Latin—futility of material.
*Bourdieu and Wacquant. 1992. An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. **Appadurai. 1986. The Social Life of Things.
*** Mbembe. 2003. Necropolitics.
My head is aching.
It ached yesterday as well.
I should take pills I guess - for the headache.
I can see the dust around me. Settled. I can see the dust accumulating. And I keep bleeding.
but quietly this time.
They vomit and cough outside on the sidewalk, in the daylight. Something — an addiction. I can hear it.
The young girl told the religious social worker that doing heroin for her was like getting to kiss jesus for her.
Heroin is stronger than any human tie. It is stronger than any compelling argument. It is stronger than a religious belief. It is the devil incarnate. It is evil. It's the black plague. It's like the zombie apocalypse. It's death.
You can’t make this up. It’s all been said. It’s been recorded.
Beggars Thieves Faeries and Whores
The Green Gallery, Milwaukee, 2016
Heroine: Cape Cod, Usa
Off Vendome, New York, 2016
Ultra Beauty, Treating Objects Like Women
Société, Berlin 2015
Based on a detail of Hendrik Goltzius's The Fall of Man, the painting And Outcasts Always Mourn is an exercise in the melancholic. The work of mourning, they said, is the elimination of demons. The demons remain, next to motifs that pervade the exhibition: landscape, specifically mountains, and women. The mourning withstands the presence of the demons. The title is taken from a line in Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol:
And alien tears will fill for him,
Pity's long-broken urn,
For his mourners will be outcast men, And outcasts always mourn.
I’m a Dragon, You’re a Whore fuses H.R. Geiger's alien and the threat of the female body. It is not a superimposition. It is not pretense. There is a subtle ferocity in asking about the surface of a painting, the creation of an image - it is a question of belief, of faith, of imagination - an imaginary being. How much weight is given to the presence of reduction? The layering of colors on the surface of this linen is realized with folded paper towels and the force of weight.
I Want You, I Want You layers permanent marker and oil paint - drawing and painting. The Sharpie seeps through the oil paint with time - persistent. The motifs create the pictorial space. Or is it the other way around? Maybe the mountains make a female form. The drawing is taken from the stills that make up a GIF of Patricia Arquette riding Fred Madison in Lost Highway. The mountain, the Matterhorn, is reflecting itself, a game of perception.
French Beach is originally Odilon Redon’s. Mundt stared at a printout on 8 1/2 x 11” paper of the rock that comes out of the beach, in front of the sky and ocean. The reproduction is unifying, eliminating all grounds, shallowing space and abstracting shapes - leaving room for interpretation.
Elizabeth Taylor leaves the ocean in He Becomes Fed Up With The Dark Ones. The gay icon, the fallible female, in a space defined by lines, strokes, a suggestion of liquid. The rest is in the mind. The violence is in the mind. The artist can give a name to that violence.
There is a definitive impetus - to be now - that is thwarted by the anxieties of being now. Questions about relevancy strangle perspicuity. Or is it the other way around?
Treating Objects Like Women
When she was younger, growing up in Switzerland, the artist hiked the Bernese Alps with her family regularly. Mundt’s appreciation for the Alps formed later in life, after she had moved to back to America - you love her as she’s walking out the door. In an effort to bring the personal into the work, Mundt reached out to images of the Alps. The motif of the mountain in Ultra Jungfrau and The Aktenschrank leaves the linen and the wall to stand, straight up and down, braced by the filing cabinet, with a security lock set at 666 - a nod perhaps to And Outcasts Always Mourn, in the exhibition Ultra Beauty across the hall.
Elizabeth Taylor leaves the ocean in Untitled. The gay icon, the fallible female, in a space defined by permanent marker, lines, strokes, a suggestion of liquid. The rest is in the mind. The violence is in the mind. The artist can give a name to that violence.
Predator - the title and the image - is taken from Instagram. The artist wants what makes her laugh, she wants to have what she wants, she wanted to use metallic oil paint as well. Can you something be yours if you’ve made your own picture of it?
Preoccupied with women and the construction of femaleness, Mundt is likely to turn to women in popular culture. The protagonist of the musical Mamma Mia is one of these women and the well-known advertisement is actually an image of a pastel drawing of this character in the agony of ecstasy. Me As The Mamma Mia Lady, Me During My Stay In London As The Mamma Mia Lady, and Tanya and Rosie Try To Convince Donna Dancing Queen start with that quietly atrocious and delicate pastel that is so often recognized but not quickly identified.
Human Remains, Overduin & co, Los Angeles
Art Basel Unlimited, Basel
Wash us with fire, Société, Berlin
Sprich auch du, Red Tracy, Copenhagen
Still American, Company Gallery, New York
If The Devil Could Kill You Right Now He Would, OVERDUIN & CO, Los Angeles
Lana Del Rey, Société, Berlin
A Failed Killing, a film by Jeanette Mundt and David Mramor, CANADA Gallery, New York
Hell on Earth, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York
Addict Distract, Bridget Donahue, New York
Screen Series: GOD, New Museum, New York
Beggars Thieves Faeries and Whores, The Green Gallery, Milwaukee
Antigone, Chapter NY, New York
Heroin: Cape Cod, USA, Off Vendome, New York
CONDO Project, Hosted by Project Native Informant, London (with Josh Kolbo)
Ultra Beauty, Société, Berlin
Treating Objects Like Women, Société, Berlin
Das Mundt, 576 Morgan Ave Apt 3L, New York
GOD, PrimeTime, New York (with Josh Kolbo)
I know I am when you make me, Clifton Benevento, New York
Jeanette Mundt, Michael Benevento, Los Angeles
Three Films – EyeEclipse, The GlowWorm, The Lamp, Cleopatra’s, New York
Jeanette Mundt, Clifton Benevento, New York
Project Room, Galerie Mikael Andersen, Berlin
The Tunnel Room, John Connelly Presents, New York
Max Hans Daniel, Berlin
A Maze Zanine, Amaze Zaning, A-Mezzaning, Meza-9, David Zwirner, New York
DOG, Company Gallery, New York
Striving After Wind, Chapter NY, New York
an ego of her own, Kaufmann Repetto, Milan
an ego of her own, Kaufmann Repetto, New York
(Nothing but) Flowers, Karma, New York
Whitney Biennial 2019, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
The Rest, Lisson Gallery, New York
The Vitalist Economy of Painting by Isabelle Graw, Galerie Neu, Berlin
Painting: Now and Forever, Part III, Matthew Marks Gallery and Greene Naftali Gallery, New York
Dinner That Night, Bureau Gallery, New York
Animal Farm, The Brant Foundation Art Study Center, Greenwich Homestead, Carl Louie, Ontario
Elements of XXX : Part I, 47 Canal, New York
Sputterances, METRO PICTURES, New York
New Acquisitions – Hildebrand Collection, G2 Kunsthalle, Leipzig
0rphan Drift - Unruly City, Dold Projects, Villingen
The Grand Dold Projects Art Gala, Villa Junghans, Villingen
Tre Amici, Tre Amici Restaurant, Long Branch
Dasmundt’s Archeopsychic Zero, KGB Bar, New York
Habits, Svietlana, New York
Paul Heyer, Janette Mundt, Jesse Wine, Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York
Pet Sematary, Shoot the Lobster, New York
Leaves of Sage and Foot of Mammal on a Smooth Yellow-ochre Background, U.S. Blues, New York
The Coyote, Gallery Steinsland Berliner, Stockholm
Works on Paper, Greene Naftali Gallery, New York
Looking back, White Columns, New York
The Rest is Free, Groung Floor Theater, New York
Jeanette Mundt + Ned Vena, Federico Vavassori, Milan
Kultur und Freizeit, Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster
Quadrato, Interno 4, Bologna
Reckless Head, Curated by Jeanette Mundt, Michael Benevento, Los Angeles
Screening: Emergency Cheesecake, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Habeas Corpus, Halsey McKay, New York
In Plain Sight, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York
The Picture of Dorian Gray, SecondGuest, New York
Gruppenausstellung 3, Société, Berlin
Sentimental Education, Gavlak Gallery, Palm Beach
From Where You Just Arrived, Pepin Moore, Los Angeles
BigMinis, Musée d’art contemporain, Bordeaux
Salad Days, The Journal, New York
August Group Show, Guerrero Gallery, San Francisco
Small Oil Paintings, Galerie Mikael Andersen, Berlin
All the Splendors of the Earth, Part II, Cave, Detroit
Big Apple, Clifton Benevento, New York
Brooklyn Queens, The Journal, New York
Cleopatra’s Trade Secrets 2, John Connelly Presents, New York
They Are Summating, Space 1026, Philadelphia
If the Dogs are Barking, Artists Space, New York
Single Vision, Apartment Show, New York
Friends and Family, Anton Kern Gallery, New York