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Justine Otto

German, b. 1974
Justine Otto, Erce, 2021
Justine Otto, Erce, 2021

Interested in the boundary between figuration and abstraction, Otto’s paintings draw out new possibilities for the co-existence of these two modes.

Justine Otto creates layered paintings that stun with their deliquescing forms and loose, vibrant brushwork. Drawing inspiration from films and vintage photographs, she paints single figures or groups, immersed in enigmatic activities. Interested in the boundary between figuration and abstraction, Otto’s paintings draw out new possibilities for the co-existence of these two modes.

Justine Otto creates layered paintings that stun with their deliquescing forms and loose, vibrant brushwork. Drawing inspiration from films and vintage photographs, she paints single figures or groups, immersed in enigmatic activities. Interested in the boundary between figuration and abstraction, Otto’s paintings draw out new possibilities for the co-existence of these two modes.

 

This painting is part of a new body of work that focuses on figuration, specifically archetypes such as generals, lonely cowboys riding on the prairie, Marlboro men, and statesmen in their uniforms. Otto is drawn to these figures “because they were such traditional symbols of power, but now [she] is able to dissolve them in abstract painting. Then, for example, medals become geometric circles, and the forms dissolve into ornaments or loops.” She bathes these figures in jewel-tones and renders them in narratives that seem to be anchored in no specific place or time. Over the years she has developed a wide range of techniques, such as wet-on-wet painting, taping, scraping, leveling out, dissolving all, stamping, opting often to use a number of dissimilar techniques to coalesce a single resonant image.

 

Born in Poland, Justine Otto moved to Germany at the age of nine. In 1996, she studied at the State Academy of Fine Arts (Städelschule) in Frankfurt am Main, with Peter Angermann and Michael Krebber. Between 1997 and 2000, she worked as a stage designer at the Municipal Theatre Frankfurt and won the Volker-Hinniger Prize in 2005. Otto’s works are featured in the permanent collection of the Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, and in numerous private collections in the U.S. and Europe. She has had solo exhibitions in many museums and public venues including: Kunsthalle der Sparkassenstiftung Lüneburg, Lüneburg, Germany; Kunstverein Duisburg, Duisburg, Germany; Städtische Galerie Neunkirchen, Neunkirchen, Germany; Museum Franz Gertsch, Burgdorf, Switzerland; Städtische Galerie Eichenmüllerhaus, Lemgo, Germany; Städtische Galerie Fürth, Fürth, Germany; Kunstverein Aurich, Aurich, Germany; and Museum Schloss Gifhorn, Gifhorn, Germany. Otto lives in Hamburg and Frankfurt.

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