‘Wired For Color’ is on display now at Cincinnati Art Galleries. It features works by Wolfgang Ritschel and Eddie Eckenrode.
Wolfgang Ritschel was an artist who grew up in and was educated in Vienna, Austria. He explored vibrant color in a style he considered “Expressionism influenced by Fauvism”. His work included many portraits of medical patients (he was a medical doctor) and their respective diseases as well as traditional exteriors and landscapes. ‘Wired For Color’ is comprised mostly of the latter.
Ritschel used a technique of layering colors within bold line work which he felt gave the depth of field and unadulterated palette intensity which he claimed he had first seen at high altitude in the Andes. His concept was that the thinner atmosphere allowed richer hues to be visible when viewing a landscape from a distance. Whether this applied to non Andean landscapes is unclear.
“Timeless Majesty” is an example of the often decorative nature of his work combined with overlapping of discrete forms as he perceived images at altitude. Showing the mesas and peaks of a sedimentary canyon system at sunset or sunrise, “Timeless Majesty” gives each facet of the canyon formation its own ultra-saturated color. Color substitution is clear as turquoise and violet are contrasted on faces with similar orientation to the sun.
“Waiting For The Buggy Ride” brings the bold line work and surreal color saturation to a contemporary street scene. Here we have an amorphous tree shape, a horse, a stop sign and a car each depicted in the same shade of vivid red. Thick lines delineate figures while faces are obscured as though by blinding light. Here Ritschel has clearly played with distorting the form; the perspective has collapsed the foreground and background into a severely reduced depth of field. The work plays more toward primitive emotion, appropriating some of the Fauvist color if not its intention.
This is in extreme contrast to “Timeless Majesty” where the work has a beautifully defined sense of distance. In addition, “Timeless Majesty”uses strict horizontal sedimentary lines to establish a grid-like vertical composition to counter the undulations of the formations’ profiles. This structure, combined with a separate color group for each distance makes depth of field one of the most striking attributes of this work. Ultimately Ritschel’s work seems decorative and pleasing to the eye, yet lacks the underlying meaning of his influences.
Eddie Eckenrode was an artist who worked in New York City and later Yellow Springs, Ohio. His work “Tree Dwellers” depicts eight figures around three large trees, as seen from behind foliage.
Eckenrode’s figures are faceless men and women who exhibit emotion. On the spectrum of figuration, they fall closer to Keith Haring’s very simple figures, being almost cartoonish. Lacking faces, his figures show emotion through posture and undulation or razor straight line work.
“Tree Dwellers” shows mottled figures in ochre, violet, blue and pale orange displaying stress and anxiety. They fight, cower, reach for help and huddle in fear. Shades of red rise in the background as though the trees are located in a subterranean cavern or enclosing inferno.
Eckenrode’s ability to transmit anxiety so brilliantly through the use of neo-primitive technique shows his mastery of composition and palette. Even lacking facial expressions, figures show trepidation through wavy limbs and anger through straightened lines. The viewer is left with a disturbing connection to the anxiety that inspired “Tree Dwellers”.
‘Wired For Color’ brings together two almost disparate artists using color and line work to express their own visions and translations of color and emotion. Ritschel’s ultra-saturation and Eckenrode’s subtle palette choices stand at odds with each other but each strive to engage the viewer with distinct technique.
Wired For Color is on display at Cincinnati Art Galleries through July 13
225 East 6th Street