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Hank Ehrenfried Quappi Projects

Hank Ehrenfried Contemplates Queerness and Grief at Quappi Projects

Art can often feel like a compulsory act. An idea presents itself, either physically or psychically, and the impulse becomes trying to figure out how to visually capture that scene, object, or emotive spirit. Alternatively, artmaking can be a much slower burn, and the conceptual rigor, research, and time-based decision making that results in a completed composition may not be visually apparent, but paramount to understanding the work. 

In “I Am Not an Alchemist,” Hank Ehrenfried’s first exhibition at Quappi Projects in Louisville, KY, the artist bridges these complementary approaches to present a group of works that demonstrate an acute sensitivity to the present moment and how it connects to a lifelong approach to research-intensive artmaking.

Hank Ehrenfried Quappi Projects Installation of Hank Ehrenfried’s “I Am Not An Alchemist” at Quappi Projects, photo by Sarah Lyon.

Composed of 15 paintings all oil on canvas or linen, this subtle yet powerful installation (on view through January 8, 2022) presents a carefully considered group of small-scale works that span subjects, themes, and approaches. It is difficult not to see the date range of works—from 2019 to 2021—without thinking of the political and biological trauma we have collectively experienced throughout these years, and how this moment in human history has shaped the way we live, see, and think.

The interior or domestic scenes appear much more up-close, wherein the artist presents us with opportunities to intimately engage with his life and work. Alternatively, the landscapes feel much more remote: either observed from a distance or an isolated space, there is an inherent separation that appears intentional. Both comforting and isolating, these scenes of nature propel an emotive spirit that evoke a myriad of confusing emotions. 

Hank Ehrenfried Quappi Projects Hank Ehrenfried, “July 19, 2021 7:44pm,” 2021, oil on linen, 9 x 12 inches, courtesy of the artist and Quappi Projects. 

A motif that recurs throughout the show is the artist presenting his works and study materials directly on the walls of his studio, which he incorporates into the compositions. Silver thumbtacks pin photographs, drawings, collages, and family ephemera onto the off-white walls, smeared and dotted with paint and earlier pinhole voids. It is an ingenious way to show the artist’s process of studying visual content, but also to slow down the experience of viewing these works. Rather than an art school critique, how the artist allows us to experience these vulnerable moments feels much more personal, offering the viewer an opportunity to stop and contemplate: what is here?

This collaging, folding, and layering of content transforms these paintings into multifaceted jumping-off points from which notions of loss, grief, and queerness bubble up to the surface. “Queerness for me has always been the displacement of positive space. Even when legible and visible it is unknown and uncertain. Grief operates similarly where it is a process of imagining the world without certain things or people or experiences,” the artist notes. “The kind of rearrangement and creasing and folding and unfolding that results from grief and making a queer life require the same sort of creativity, honesty, and willingness to contend with unfilled space.”

Hank Ehrenfried Quappi Projects Hank Ehrenfried, “Untitled (Back of the House),” oil on canvas, courtesy of the artist and Quappi Projects. 

Hank Ehrenfried Quappi Projects Hank Ehrenfried, “Foal Folded,” 2021, oil on canvas, 11 x 14 inches, courtesy of the artist and Quappi Projects.
Hank Ehrenfried Quappi Projects Hank Ehrenfried, “Leaf in Four Parts,” 2019, oil on canvas, 11 x 14 inches, courtesy of the artist and Quappi Projects.





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