Critics Picks | Art Forum | Anne Prentnieks | October 9th 2016

Filled with fantastical paintings that becloud the currents between humankind and the natural world, this survey of Inka Essenhigh’s work unveils the artist’s gentle progression from flat, graphic works—evocative of Japanese woodcuts and various anime traditions—to more softly articulated compositions that call to mind early Disney and, of course, Bosch and Bruegel: the animator’s narrative forebears….

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Inka Essenhigh (interview) | SOUND & VISION | Brian Alfred | May 27th 2016

SOUND & VISON: conversations with artists and musician podcast hosted by Brian Alfred interviews painter Inka Essenhigh

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Inka Essenhigh (reveiw) | ArtNews | Carol Diehl | February 2015

In this show, poetically titled “Comet Dust & Crystal Shards,” Inka Essenhigh’s paintings invoked a childlike enchantment- capable even of melting the hearts of those not previously drawn to her work.  Here was the planet as seen through an idealized lens, where humans live in such harmony with nature that it’s hard to tell the natural world from the imagined one.  Essenhigh’s female spirits were set in panoramas of vine-covered earth and starry skies at the dawn, or happy twilight, of time….

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Rich Tales of Inka Essenhigh | The Japan Times | Matthew Larking | March 22nd 2012

Inka Essenhigh’s earlier body of work fused a personal take on Surrealism with motifs that seem borrowed from animation. Works such as “Mob + Minotaur” (2002), with such strong anime and manga characteristics, had some critics refer to it as a kind of pop-Surrealism or Japanimation.  Her recent body of work, however, is of a very different type….

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Strangely Beautiful Main @ CMCA | New Enlgand Today | Edgar Allen Beem | August 17th 2011

My sense of fair play tells me it is way too soon to return to the Center for Maine Contemporary Art for a review even though the July 20 post about Steve Mumford’s drawings and paintings of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been the most popular and controversial Just Looking post ever. But, I have been waiting years for painter Inka Essenhigh to exhibit in Maine and, as CMCA director Suzette McAvoy works to revitalize the Rockport art gallery after it nearly closed for good in 2009, she has come up with four concurrent shows (all through September 25) that I do not believe can be beat this summer anywhere in Maine or New England.

UN/Natural Splendor pairs the fantastical paintings of Inka Essenhigh with the fanciful plastic sculpture of Richard Van Buren.  The two have little in common other than the fact that Van Buren was an extremely popular New York artist in the 1970s and Essenhigh has been one of the darlings of the New York art world for the past decade…

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Masterpiece Magic | Art Net | Charlie Finch | 2010

Inka Essenhigh's strong new show at 303 is full of her bubbling sinkholes, time trippy wormholes, a water spout that resembles a squid and a black stallion in verdant yellow field. Yet one painting, completely different from the rest, stuck in my vision for days. It is called Lower East Side and it is the most complex and spiritually charged piece Inka (or very few others) has ever painted….

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Inka Essenhigh (Review) | Art in America | Stephen Maine | April 26th 2010

Like a great ship gradually reaching her port of call, Inka Essenhigh has emerged from the open ocean of figurative abstraction and slowly, inexorably drawn up to the welcoming pier of illustration. This gifted, always-interesting painter is on record as wanting her work to be “accessible,” but half of the 10 paintings in “The Old New Age,” her latest solo exhibition, border on kitsch….

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Inka Essenhigh (review of 303 Gallery Exhibition) | The Brooklyn Rail | James Kalm | May 9th 2006

You get it? That “it” is the punch-line to the joke, the plot of the narrative, the moral to the story. With this latest group of paintings at 303 Gallery, Inka Essenhigh wants to make her points clear and tell her stories more explicitly. To those ends she is probing the boundaries of one of the last taboos of advanced contemporary painting, “illustration.” In our weird world, for an image to carry more literal content, it seems bound by the physics of perception to devices most closely associated with realism, namely perspective, chiaroscuro, modeling, etc. In Essenhigh’s case, with her stretched, bending and undulating forms, there are the added requirements of the highly delineated detail, the sleek contour and the precisely illuminated blob in creating her believably Surrealistic illusions….

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Swirls, Whirls, and Mermaid Girls | Artnews | Hillary Sheets | May 2004

In an unfinished canvas on the wall of Inka Essenhigh’s sunny garret studio on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, a creature propped on a rock warily eyes the viewer.  Her lower half trails off in the curvaceous sweep of a mermaid’s tail, while her top half looks like that of a surly old hausfrau with disheveled hair.  Modeled with a mastery of figure drawing and a good amount of humor, the image is riveting.  

“I especially like drawing her face,” says the 34-year-old artist, who has an impish quality in her dark, expressive eyes, somewhat akin to that of her disgruntled-looking lady, “ I like the idea that she’s half animal - like maybe she just ate a raw fish, but she’s got a bra on- that she’s kind of grumpy and doesn’t have any manners, I wanted something that was half vulnerable and half hostile.  I like that kind of language and narrative….”

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Entering the Labrynth | Tema Celeste | Barry Schwabsky | 2003

I don’t know Inka Essenhigh personally, but there was always something that scared me a bit in the idea of her I drew from looking at the paintings.  Not anymore.  Her work has become riskier, or risky in a different way.  She comes off as less sure of herself, more awkward and self-questioning.  I’ll admit I like sensing that vulnerability.  Does that make me cruel?  The paintings themselves, so immersed in questions about the relation between pleasure and cruelty, seem to whisper the question in my ear.  They whisper an answer too: “You’re too innocent to be cruel,”  they assure.  “But just follow us, we know so much more about it than you do…. “

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Inka Essenhigh: A Painter With Pop | The New York Times Magazine | Michael Kimmelman | November 17th 2002

In a notoriously jealous art world, where no good deed goes unpunished, the painter Inka Essenhigh enjoyed, then suffered, the inevitable consequences of sudden fame a few years ago, when she was pegged a stylish up-and-comer by the press and her photogenic face was splashed on the pages of glossy magazines.  (One article was titled “Mod Squad.”) The art she made was a surreal riff on Japanimation, although she didn’t think of it that way at the time: skillfully drawn, sinuous and decorative, her paintings were populated by humanoid techno-blobs that looked slightly sinister but also loopy.  The touch was mechanical, the atmosphere airless.  “Trendy,” critics barked, while gossips charted her commercial passage from one heavyweight New York dealer to another….

 

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Inka Essenhigh | Bomb Magazine | Ross Bleckner | 2000

Sometimes I see a new artist who is surprising because she brings certain images and qualities to painting. Inka Essenhigh’s images span a range from funky and cartoony to elegant, like science fiction rendered into Ming Dynasty decoration, Chinoise screens, or lacquered bowls. They seem effortless (although I know they’re not), dense, and seamless. They have a certain airlessness. I asked Inka if she had any of these things in mind when she worked….

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Big Issues | Artnet | Robert Mahoney | 1999

Inka Essenhigh's seven impressive enamel paintings come with several influences, but first let me describe the paintings, as best I can. Cosmos represents a strange floating island in a sea of blue enamel. Campers, who seem to have melted into the intricate straps and velcro tugs of their extreme sport gear, cook up something on a rotisserie. End of the World places similar melted humanoids on "horsoids" racing across a cracked earth. Large Fire flares up between two cushion-shapes, the figures positioned below.

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Inka Essenhigh: Between Worlds | The Frist Center for the Visual Arts | Interview with Essenghigh | Show May 27th - October 9th 2016

Inka Essenhigh’s paintings and prints evoke allegorical traditions in which nature and humanity are magically entwined. Her images are inspired by archetypes, representations that symbolize spiritual truths shared by people across the ages. Fantastic beings—from both the mythical past and the dream world of today—float through scenes of metamorphosis, in which rocks, water, trees, and buildings pulse with inner energy. Essenhigh’s animistic world triggers memories of a time in our lives, and in the history of our cultures, when the imagination stirred the inner world without reason or explanation.

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Art Review: Inka Essenhigh: Comet Dust & Crystal Shards | The Wall Street Journal | Peter Plagens | October 24th 2014

Artists who emplo dry, conceptual means tend to elicit the same kind of reaction in viewers.  Those who get the idea behind the work love the puzzle-solving while those who don’t get it feel like they have been forced to take high-school calculus all over again.  By contrast, artists who free-associate -- particularly dreamily so as in the case of the painter Inka Essenhigh (b. 1969) -- generate freely associative reactions….

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Smithsonian American Art Museum James Dicke Contemporary Artist Lecture with Inka Essenhigh, March 7th 2013

This inaugural lecture honors James F. Dicke II, the museum's former Commission Chair, for his outstanding leadership and contributions to the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Artist Inka Essenhigh discusses "Cartoons and Myths: Reviving Pan and Diana for the 21st Century" as she describes her influences, the evolution of her work, and the road to what interests her today—the creation of paintings that show an inner visionary world of the imagination.

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The Magic of Twilight: Inka Essenhigh on Working Fast and Being Timeless | Art Critical | Rupert Goldsworthy | March 26th 2011

Inka Essenhigh’s paintings flit between abstraction and representation. Populated by a cosmology of figures that appear surreal and distended, they draw from her own very particular if perverse psycho-architectural interior world.

Her work has been described as both “exotic and operatic.” Critics cite 19th-century caricatures, oriental art, Arabic miniatures, and contemporary comics as influences.  Other references that come to mind are the mad machines of 1920s British illustrator W. Heath Robinson, and the Rabelaisian folk scenes of another Brit, Sir Stanley Spencer.

Essenhigh’s images unfold her own internal mythologies and legends…

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Art in Review | The New York Times | Ken Johnson | February 4th 2010

The seismic success of the movie “Avatar” reveals a propensity for pantheistic belief throughout the industrialized world. Judging by Lisa Yuskavage’s paintings of giant goddesses embedded in primordial landscapes, and now Inka Essenhigh’s painted visions of enchanted forests, a ghostly coastal scene and a nature goddess passing among the trees, not all artists are immune to the allure of pagan myth and magic even if they approach them with tongue in cheek.

Made with a thin, dry, illustrative touch, Ms. Essenhigh’s paintings lack the oleaginous sensuality and erotic fantasy of Ms. Yuskavage’s paintings, but they have a similarly playful combination of humor and mysticism….

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Inka Essenhigh Plots the Undoing of the Figure | Art in America | Noah Becker | January 15th 2010

Inka Essenhigh is a New York-based painter whose highly colorful paintings feature dramatic distortions and abstractions of figures and landscapes. Earlier bodies of work dating to the 1990s featured opaque effects, linear elements and violent painterly gestures, all in tension with the artist's rich, vibrant color fields. Essenhigh is masterful at drawing us into her paintings under the notion that we are in familiar territory, from which her work then pushes the viewer to re-consider the effects of distorted figuration and abstraction on our powers of recognition.

The protagonists in these paintings tear and wrestle with their surroundings at times floating or flying. Figures can appear perched on freely constructed organic forms or as non human entities that move at lightning speed through vast landscapes. On the occasion of her third solo exhibition at 303 Gallery in New York, we ask the about planning the dissolution of her mysterious figures….

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Inka Essenhigh: The New Old Age at 303 Gallery | Video | James Kalm | 2010

James Kalm pedals up to the opening of Inka Essenhigh’s most recent selection of paintings, “The Old New Age”. In these works the artist has concentrated on developing a sharp focus depiction of the natural landscape that surrounds her summer studio in Maine. Mingling a fantastic Surrealism with the romantic sublime, forest maddens and spirits in the mist appear to observant viewers. Includes an interview with Inka Essenhigh.

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Inka Essenhigh (review of 303 Gallery Exhibition) | Papermag | Sarah Valdez | February 14th 2006

Inka Essenhigh has aptly described her paintings as "about America: fake, fun, pop, violent but also quite attractive." Her work has a beguilingly alien appeal: antiseptic yet expertly rendered, flirting with both abstraction and representation but committing to nothing more than visual intrigue….

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Fifth International SITE Santa Fe Biennial | Frieze | Peter Eleey | October 10th 2004

Though the ‘grotesque’ may seem at first glance to be a fine rebuttal to ‘beauty’, curator Robert Storr is quick to point out that his ‘Disparities & Deformations: Our Grotesque’ is not an answer to Dave Hickey, nor to Hickey’s ‘Beau Monde’ approach to the last biennial here. Storr’s notion of the grotesque reacts against its common pejorative use, instead insisting on the rich history of the term, beginning in Renaissance Rome (though its psychological dynamics extend much further back).

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Inka Essenhigh: Recent Paintings | MOCA Miami review | absolutearts.com | 2003

The Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, presents Inka Essenhigh: Recent Paintings from December 3, 2003 through February 15, 2004. This exhibition focuses on Essenhigh’s oil paintings of fantastic figures in mysterious space. The exhibition is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami and curated by MOCA Director and Chief Curator Bonnie Clearwater. Inka Essenhigh received recognition at the onset of her career in the mid-1990s, when photo-based art dominated the art world, and Essenhigh was painting graphic paintings using enamel paint….

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Art in Review; Inka Essenhigh | The New York Times | Roberta Smith | June 16th 2000

There’s a lot going on in Inka Essenhigh’s semi-abstract, incipiently pornographic, slick-surfaced paintings.  More than completely meets the eye, which may be part of the problem.
Ms. Essenhigh’s new work has improved since her last show.  Once again, her humanoid surrogates -- headless, sometimes limbless mutants -- strain at their bindings, hurtle about or suffer obscure humiliations on vast fields of flat off-key colors.  But they are less relentlessly suggestive of members of the armed forces, their carryings-on aren’t as frenetic, and Ms. Essenhigh has brightened and varied her corrupted pallette….

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Inka Essenhigh: A New Grammar of Motion | Flash Art | David Hunt | October 2000

We’ve been fetishizing speed for so long, it’s no wonder that velocity has become a style.  The collage aesthetic in 80s painting, so often likened to an amped up particle accelerator, has finally become literalized in recent work exploring collision, combustion, oscillation, and orbiting.  Techno-organic metaphors are in such large supply these days and have so assimilated themselves into common parlance that it’s no longer enough to accurately describe the content of a painting.  We want to know what that content is doing; we want verbs.  Inka Essenhigh’s fluid enamel paintings are the perfect beta-test for this new grammar of motion….

 

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Overture: Inka Essenhigh | Flash Art | Grady T. Turner | 1999

Last spring I saw Inka Essenhigh’s large enamel paintings in a group show, and for weeks they stayed in my mind like a pop song gone weirdly awry.  Against flat fields of acid yellows or greens, Essenhigh painted figures that seemed to be mutating before your eyes.  One painting depicted what might have been an orgy or a mass suicide, with knotted red clothes bleeding putty-colored flesh into nude puddles.  Morphing from one indistinct form to another, Essenhigh’s figures could not be pinned down….

 

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Inka Essenhigh on Artnet.com