Kaethe Kauffman: Virtual Solo Exhibition

30 August 2021 - 31 March 2022

"A string dipped in paint and then wrapped around a woman's back, neck, arm. The

model makes a subtle shift, and it's recorded in the smearing, smudging, blurring of the line. That simple movement is documented and temporal is made permanent in Kaethe Kauffman's photographs ...  A figure sits in a lotus pose, a yoga posture of meditation, of calmness. Yet within the silhouette is a welter of high-energy..."   -- Karen Chambers, New York City

The body in art, whether suffering or exalted, is a surrogate for the self. The body has been depicted as both a physical reality and a sign of the ineffable quality of our existence, manifested in a beautiful and vulnerable form.

In Kaethe Kauffman's work, the body makes itself known in often unfamiliar ways, but it speaks clearly of its capacity for being marked by experience and its power of expressivity in movement. The paradox at the heart of Kauffman's art is that it starts with the corporeal and works through it toward transcendence and a letting go of the self.

Kauffman's practice as an artist is performative and photographic, creating images of women's bodies in a series of actions, including yoga poses. To create her recent work, she has tied a length of string soaked in paint around a hand, knee, elbow, or torso, and when the body part is flexed, the movement is recorded as a kind of off-printing. In Kauffman's art, the body writes itself upon its own skin in a ritual of self-revelation.

This act of marking and exposure is documented by Kauffman's photographic images, which are digitally repeated and colored, and then drawn upon by hand in a variety of media. In an expansion of the body's own "speech" through movement, the images combine into larger fields of replication and mirroring, until the individual body is subsumed into a larger vision. 

In the Overview series, the images cumulatively form long scrolls, with the body's fragments re-membered into a complex whole. For the viewer, these pieces can variously be like watching frames of a film with abrupt jump cuts, a scientific array of organic forms, a woven fabric with intense patterning, or a vessel arising out of disparate facets. Throughout, the body is flooded with light, seeming to become transparent, a negative of itself, or infused with color.

In the Hourglass series, silhouettes of a doubled meditating figure, recall the traditional image of the Buddha. The figure, presented singly, contains a range of forms derived from parts of the body, including the finger, neck, and waist, all marked with twine and pigment. The effect is a human form filled with the experience of living within the physical and simultaneously emptied of the personal. In the series Into the Light, the meditating figure seen in a six-part grid progressively becomes engulfed in light. In the Story series, the meditating figures strongly reflect the inner life of the artist as she confronts personal questions, including the eating of meat and facing illness, presented in highly visual form.

                                                                                                                    --John Mendelsohn

Press release

Cross Contemporary Partners is pleased to present Kaethe Kauffman’s virtual 3-D Solo Exhibition of archival ink-jet prints on silk and plexi-glass hanging sculptures. Ms. Kauffman’s  “Muscle Movement” is a series of conceptual photographs presenting close-up images of various body parts—mainly neck, shoulders, and back—with the record of the movement of the muscle group marked in paint on the surface of the body. Begun about twenty years ago, this series of work continues up into the present. In more recent works, Kauffman makes use of photoshop to add color and superimpose texts over the photographs. 


Kauffman conceived of the idea for the Muscle Movement series during a yoga class, when, expressing amazement at how the muscles of various participants struggled to move into position, she devised a more direct way than drawing for depicting this complicated movement. She creates these images by tieing painted strings around muscles of her models, instructing them how to rotate the muscle, and then photographing the resulting imprint. These images, in turn, are replicated and organized in patterns that are then printed on a large scale as silk banners.


Other works include transparent paintings on plexiglas that, suspended from the ceiling, seem to float in the air. Based on sitting meditation, each artwork impart a transcendence and impermanence that is the essence of pure being.


Kauffman has also taught anatomy for artists and has been inspired by Michelangelo’s anatomy studies in her work. Her appreciation of the intricacies of muscle movement amounts to wonder. While most people take for granted the complex movements of their muscles, Kauffman praises the unseen forces at work under the skin. 


Kaethe Kauffman has had solo exhibitions at  Czech Museum of Fine Arts, (Prague, CZE), University of Nebraska, (Omaha, NE), Frostburg State University, (Frostburg, MD), 

Berry College (Berry, GA), Hardin Center for Cultural Arts (Gadsden, AL), Hofstra University Museum,(Hempstead, NY), Walter Wickiser Gallery and Kathleen Cullen Gallery, (New York, NY) among many others. She currently lives in Honolulu, Hawaii.