Over the course of his life, Titian painted thirty-some versions of the lovelorn Venus’ failed seduction of Adonis, the young man’s sights set on other game. Titian’s recursive portrayals extend a single tragedy into a Sisyphean courtship; Venus eternally outstretched and tumbling, Adonis forever recoiling in disgust. Their flailing embrace is fleeting and infinite. Live Flesh, Katherina Olschbaur’s third solo exhibition with Nicodim, permeates the circular mythology of Titian’s repeated compositions and furthers Venus’ tortured ecstasy into epic, unresolved narratives that stretch beyond.
The skin within Live Flesh pulsates with electric current. It throbs, it glistens, it crawls, it bleeds. It is alive. In “After Venus and Adonis (Live Flesh),” 2021, the subjects’ skin telegraphs the direction of motion: the hot-blooded seductress expels the cooler-toned Adonis into a menacing storm. Olschbaur’s heroine is more muscular and masculine than her predecessors—she is a vicious huntress—while her Adonis is an exceptionally femme and tender prey, his metallic, flopping dong more accessory than dagger. In “Picnic of Two Suns,” 2021, the neon orange fleshtones of a gender-fluid central figure reflect and radiate the light of twin stars onto a bareback bacchanal to illuminate, amongst other things, the swallower of a well-built sword (Adonis, take note), and a gaggle of purple-feathered geese pleasuring the supine Leda. Venus would feel much more welcome here. “Sub Red,” 2021, follows a fiery coven of witches, cherubs, or goddesses as they gleefully ride one of their own into submission, tugging at her wings, thrusting her earthbound. The airborne angels are flush with sex and desire, the defeated’s fire has been squelched, her skin is bilious and muted.
Live Flesh is a body of work centered on the body itself. It is a study of the equal and opposite forces that keep our skin and everything inside it in constant motion as we hurtle through space. Like Titian to Venus and Adonis, Olschbaur’s new paintings visit and revisit a central action and reaction, but the bodies themselves dictate the resulting drama. They are arguments against predetermination, a rainbow of possible and impossible outcomes.
Katherina Olschbaur (b.1983, Bregenz, Lake Constance, Austria) lives and works in Los Angeles, California. Olschbaur graduated from the University of Applied Arts, Vienna, Austria. Recent exhibitions include Dominique Fung and Katherina Olschbaur: My Kingdom and a Horse, Galeria Nicodim, Bucharest (2021, two-artist); Night Blessings, Union Pacific, London (2021, solo), Tortured Ecstasies, Nicodim Gallery, Los Angeles (2020, solo); Dirty Elements, Contemporary Arts Center Gallery, UC Irvine, Irvine, CA, USA (2020, solo); Hollywood Babylon, Jeffrey Deitch, Nicodim, AUTRE Magazine, Los Angeles, CA (2020); The Divine Hermaphrodite, GNYP Gallery, Berlin, Germany (2019, solo); and Horses, Nicodim Gallery, Los Angeles, USA (2018, solo). In 2021, she was selected for Kehinde Wiley’s Black Rock residency in Dakar, Senegal.