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Art Review: Kati Heck at Marc Selwyn Fine Art

September 25, 2009 | 11:27 am

I don’t know why tourists like to have their pictures taken with their faces peeking through oval holes cut in plywood sheets painted to resemble cartoon characters or local legends. It must have something to do with being in a new place, not fitting in and feeling both uncomfortable and amused by it all.

At Marc Selwyn Fine Art, Düsseldorf-born, Antwerp-based painter Kati Heck turns the pedestrian experience of being a misfit into a powerful meditation on what it is like to live in a world out of sync with itself. Her six mural-scale paintings and two loaded drawings give stunning form to a harrowing place that’s not all that different from everyday life, except for the compression and clarity of their vision.


In terms of drama, nothing much happens in Heck’s paintings. The largest, “Rudi’s Angebot,” recalls Manet’s “Le dejeuner sur l’herbe.” It depicts three life-size figures lolling about in nondescript grayness as an Edvard Munch-style goblin steps, Keep-on-Truckin’-style, out from unpainted nothingness

“Die Raucher” evokes the ghost of George Grosz and shows two men taking a cigarette break. “Der Kugelfrab” features a pair of nude models posing for a life-drawing class. And “Die Fratzenpleite” displays a fleshy old woman leaning or falling backward as a huge cartoon tear spills from her eye.

Heck paints with amazing virtuosity. She transforms the formulaic deadness of old-fashioned Socialist Realism into a sort of skeptical humanism that is by turns biting and touching, scary and embarrassing, clinical and sensuous. Her mixture of realistic illusionism, point-blank abstraction and goofy cartoons recalls the cheeky Postmodernism of David Salle and Eric Fischl.

But cleverness for its own sake has no place in Heck’s art. She paints like she means it. And her paintings reveal real passion for finding the cracks in the theatrical facade of contemporary existence, where individuality peeks out whenever it can.

Marc Selwyn Fine Art, 6222 Wilshire Blvd., (323) 933-9911, through Oct. 24. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

--David Pagel

Above: "Rudi's Angebot"  Photo credit: Robert Wedemeyer