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Jana Euler, Installation view, Where the energy comes from, Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn, 2014

Since the mid-2000s German artist Jana Euler has produced a heterogeneous body of work that diagrams painting’s social, material, and historical bases. Known for her exacting technique and a cast of characters both real and imagined, Euler “doesn’t break convention,” writes Isabelle Graw, but rather “makes the sometimes-excruciating restraints it imposes visible and explicit, performing a black comedy of accommodation.” Old or new masters—from Leonardo to Duchamp, Georg Baselitz to her Städelschule teacher Michael Krebber—provide Euler with templates that she is free to bloat, vaporize, or otherwise pervert. Pop icons serve as references, too (Ed Sheeran, Whitney Houston), as do animals, whether phallic sharks and slugs or Morecorns, a mythical creature of her own invention. Often treating her subjects with deadpan affect, Euler renders the familiar inscrutable, questioning the authority or self-evidence of these sources in turn.

Houston’s presence, in Whitney (2013), signals Euler’s interest in the social construction of image and taste in not just in mainstream culture but also art’s networks. The title duly refers to the New York museum which commissioned it and which appears as a specter abutting the face of the singer. Euler’s work has long been attuned to the impact of art’s institutions and conventions on the body, human and otherwise. The figures in paintings such as Human Size (2014)—or the tangled nudes in her 2020 Artist’s Space exhibition Unform—contort themselves to fit rectangular frames, as if documenting the biological impact of art’s structures writ large.

Power and institutionality likewise motivate a group of paintings that depict electrical sockets. “For Euler,” notes Catherine Chevalier, “the exhibition is a device for circulating energy.” In solo shows at Kunsthalle Zürich and the Stedelijk Museum, such canvases highlight circulation’s often binary framing: on/off, input/output, male/female. Yet, here as elsewhere, Euler ultimately implies power’s dimensionality as not binary but multiple—and often hidden, whether by architectural cladding or art historical myths.

Jana Euler, Close Rotation (Left), 2019, Oil on linen, 78 3/4 x 78 3/4 inches (200 x 200 cm)

Jana Euler (b. 1982, Friedberg, Germany) lives and works in Frankfurt and Brussels. Her work is currently on view in a permanent collection presentation at MoMA and a solo exhibition at WIELS, Brussels. Solo exhibitions include Greene Naftali, New York (2021); Artists Space, New York (2020); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2017); Portikus, Frankfurt (2015), and Kunsthalle Zürich and Bonner Kunstverein (2015/14). Significant group shows include the 59th Venice Biennale, The Milk of Dreams (2022); Museum Brandhorst (2023); Greene Naftali, New York (2023, 2018, 2017); Kunstmuseum Basel (2022); Fondazione Prada, Milan (2021); Manifesta 13, Marseille, France (2020); Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt (2019); Tai Kwun, Hong Kong (2019); mumok, Vienna (2018); Musée d’art moderne et contemporain, Geneva (2017); Nassauischer Kunstverein, Wiesbaden, Germany (2013); and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2013), among others.

Her work is in the collections of Museum Brandhorst, Munich; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Tate Modern, London; and The Warehouse, Dallas.


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