December 11, 2021 - January 29, 2022
2504 W 7th St, 2nd Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90057
Hannah Hoffman Gallery is pleased to present a solo exhibition of works by Raphaela Simon, the artist’s second show at the gallery. Simon’s recent paintings take their cue from ordinary objects and familiar settings, but they are nonetheless totemic in their pared-down forms, directness of address and, most importantly, their allusive richness. The works mine a new, generative space between figuration and abstraction, suggesting the limits of textual description even as they open up a wealth of possibilities for visual signification.
Simon’s paintings are at once overwhelmingly full and disturbingly empty. Her forms are simplified and her color palette is stark, but the works are also nuanced and sculptural - multidimensional in both their physicality and content. Attempts to find precedents for the many contradictions at play in Simon’s paintings usually fall short. We can situate her work in a long tradition of modernist abstraction - Constantin Brancusi, Piet Mondrian, and Barnett Newman are among her touchstones - but Simon’s works aren’t about whittling an image down to its most essential formal elements. Her subjects, presented on an opaque void of paint, are offered up without much context, but they remain rich with meaning, more portals to thinking about the day-to-day human experience and time-honored social constructs than musings on the act of painting as such.
Simon’s titles are blunt descriptions (in both German and English) of her paintings’ respective subjects. They provide a toehold for understanding a given composition, but they’re only a starting point. The title Langes Gesicht (Long Face), for example, helps us translate Simon’s irregular, spoonlike shape into a human profile with a protrusion at the base of the skull and a ledge at the bottom of the chin. The words do little, however, to prepare us for the disturbing incongruity between the face’s fleshy pink hue and it’s complete, mask-like occlusion of expressive function. The label Bett (Bed) clues us into the identity of a thick, blue-and-white checkered plinth, a moment of recognition that brings with it a wave of nostalgia for homespun domesticity. In Waldgrundstuck (Forest Property), Simon evacuates any trace of the natural terrain encased by the fence that rings the composition, a move that only makes the cordoning off and commodification of the earth and its resources more poignant. In Simon’s hands, simplification doesn’t always lead to clarity; sometimes it shines a light on just how complex and entangled our habits, routines, and surroundings actually are.
Raphaela Simon (b. 1986, Villingen, Germany) lives and works in Berlin. Her work has been presented in solo and group exhibitions at Galerie Max Hetzler (2021, 2020, 2019, 2017 and 2016); Michael Werner Gallery, London (2020 and 2019); Victoria Miro Gallery (2018); TRAMPS/Michael Werner, New York (2017); Hannah Hoffman Gallery, Los Angeles (2016 and 2015); and TRAMPS, London (2014), among others.