Harper’s is pleased to present Noel Grunwaldt: For the Birds, a solo exhibition of works created over the past eleven years. Featuring a selection of recent watercolor, encaustic, and pastel paintings and drawings alongside a series of sculptures produced in 2007 and 2008, this presentation highlights Grunwaldt’s continued exploration of deceased birds as an evocative, multivalent subject across her work in various media. The exhibition will open with a reception on Wednesday, November 28 and will remain on view through January 19, 2019.
Hinging on multiple layers of ambiguity, Grunwaldt’s lushly painted works on paper revisit this common motif of Dutch still-life painting to meditate on the fragility of life and the fixity of death. Sumptuously detailed watercolors such as Acorn Woodpecker and Sharp-Shinned Hawk No. 2 depict lone birds, their wings dissolving into the billowing folds of pigment that surround them, as they gaze tenderly upward. It remains unclear whether these dreamlike avian subjects, captured in fleeting moments of action or tranquility, are soaring midair or lying lifelessly amid the sweeping washes of color around them. In Grunwaldt’s more recent series of encaustic panels, this tension is maintained; dead and moribund cardinals, robins, and finches seemingly dart, crouch, and stretch their wings in dynamic configurations as they dissolve into the works’ marbleized backdrops.
The monochromatic Shorebird series continues the artist’s examination of majestic fowl, likewise deconstructing their bodies into fragments and rendering the natural world abstract. Comprising several bleak close-ups of a single bird in striking grayscale, these drawings portray its splayed feathers, outstretched appendages, and disjointed plumes with expressive intensity. Other images zoom out to picture the animal’s recognizable form, its beak gently burrowed into the sand and its neck sloping backward. Similarly, meticulous representations of deterioration and decay abound in Grunwaldt’s gold and silver sculptural casts of starlings, whose contorted, decomposing bodies are, paradoxically, refigured as permanent and solid. Materializing the inexorable phases of disintegration, these beguiling works waver between the grotesque and the alluring, the vulnerable and the empowered, and the transient and the eternal, culminating in a complex reflection on life and nature.
Noel Grunwaldt (b. 1964, Carmel, CA) received a BA from SUNY Albany in 1986 and an MFA in 1989. Most recently, her work was the subject of a solo exhibition at Stellan Holm Gallery, New York. Grunwaldt currently lives and works in Upstate New York.