Old Enough To Be My Mother
New York, 90 Ludlow St 5th Floor
The paintings included in Ritterpusch’s, Old Enough To Be My Mother series are largely based off of vintage pinup magazines from the 1960’s. These works explore contemporary notions of beauty, ephemerality and Ritterpusch’s curious relationship to the women that are contemporaries of his mother. The way the artist represents these seductive portraits is disruptive, while these electrically charged paintings allow nostalgia and eroticism to resurface, they seem to be captured in the fraction of a moment, like a fading memory. Our contributor editor Eda Ozdoyuran interviewed Nathan about her New York exhibition.
Your latest series “Old Enough to Be My Mother” depicts a number of 50’s 60’s pin-up girls, why do you allude such classical depictions?
The “Old Enough to Be My Mother” series began around 2000. A coworker at a job I had after graduating art school in Baltimore brought in her recently deceased husband’s collection of men’s magazines. I was familiar with Playboy of course, but these were smaller, lesser known publications that were more straightforward and less made up. I just was very drawn to them and it occurred to me that these women were about the same age as me when they were photographed but also interestingly the same age as my mother in real life. I liked that idea and the tension and the opportunity to encounter imagery that was both new and somehow familiar to me.
You systematically blur your portraits and their visions. Is this s a way to diverge from reality?
Sure that’s one way of looking at it. I would describe the surface more as undulating or smeared. What begins as a naturalistic rendering becomes distorted. Its a chance to explore the fluidity of paint within a representational confine as well as a way of describing vitality and desire.
One expects to see more clearly the closer they get to the details; yet paradoxically, in your series it is quite opposite. The big picture is best seen from afar, in fact becoming more obscure upon closer examination. Why do you engage in such a duality?
I like paintings to perform both at a distance and on close inspection. I think the viewer deserves to be rewarded in both scenarios. With regard to the portraits the abstract fluidity of the paint is really explored. Because we’re so used to looking at faces and because the background is simple the distortion produces a satisfying mixture the predictable and unexpected. If he elements aren’t so reduced the effect of the undulating paint is too disorienting.
Does your work trace to some existing characters, or do you create some imaginary characters as well?
I’ve always been interested in narrative and much of the larger work has that. The source material is often a combination of found and personal imagery. Characters sometimes reoccur and are playing a role assigned them. Typically I’ve asked people that I’m close with to pose for me as that intimacy is often central to the finished painting.
You work with a wide array of techniques. From creating oil paintings to collage works and film still like photography which are reminiscent of film noir and Dutch master works. What motivates you to engage in such variety?
There’s a lot of good ways to make a picture. Different imagery seems to dictate the way it gets depicted. Painting for me is problem solving and exploration so the lessons learned from one canvas migrate to another and the conversation expands and continues and takes different directions.
Your compositions evoke nostalgia and desire. Will women figures and such seductive tone remain as your prevailing theme?
Desire and longing are very compelling to me as is the act of simply looking. The computer increasingly plays a role in how painting ideas originate and imagery gets organized so the complexity factor is being expanded in one corner of the studio. In another is a new group of paintings called “Dead Hunks” depicting mostly naked men from the past.
There is a subtle humor and tease along with a melancholy in your paintings. What psychological state do you see them in?
I used to think serious paintings had to be serious but I don’t feel that way anymore. I value humor and wit in my personal life and want to see it in the work too. I don’t like everything to be so one dimensional.
Your paintings can be situated in a limbo oscillating between reality and fantasy. Can dreams be considered as your inspirations?
They can be dream like and non linear but I’m not painting anything I dreamt about.
Especially this series remind me of Prince’s appropriation of popular images from the mid-century kitsch of pulp novel covers, to the language of low borscht-belt comedy, to the stylings of the celebrity headshots. The use of the pin-up girls from old magazines is like an appropriation which undermines the manipulative strategies of the advertising industry and ironically demonstrates both an embrace and a critique of male gaze. Do you refer to such a critique?
The work is available for any interpretation one has. I’m absolutely not interested in assigning meaning or limiting how it is seen. For me it’s more personal and straightforward. I encountered these images of women from a certain age that I was drawn to and excited about. The peculiar realization that these women were contemporaries of my mother felt like an interesting idea to paint about. I also see them as a commentary on desire, contemporary notions of beauty and the ephemeral quality of youth.