Hauser & Wirth debuted two new exhibitions at their Downtown Los Angeles location. The exhibitions, one by Rita Ackermann and another by Zeng Fanzhi, feature colorful and gestural abstract works on canvas.

Rita Ackermann’s exhibition, titled “Vertical Varnish,” is named after her signature work produced especially for this exhibition. She created all 15 paintings and five monotype prints throughout 2022 and said that she sees the seasons reflected in the color and tone of each work. Ackermann explained her use of color develops in real time as she is painting, sometimes coming out entirely different from what she had intended.

Ackermann composes her large-scale mixed media paintings using a combination of figural drawing and abstract shapes, covering the original composition until it is almost unrecognizable behind her colorful brush strokes. She works instinctively and impulsively as music reverberates throughout her studio.

“The kind of dynamism Ackermann’s paintings communicate at least partially derives from the sense of urgency that goes into making them,” wrote curator Jeffrey Grunthaner about Ackermann’s paintings. “Working on a particular picture may very well involve entering into the uncertain arena of various rescue operations: unforeseeable problems or intended accidents that the artist has to work around or assimilate.

“As they move toward their final composition, Ackermann’s paintings reflect the perpetual motion of these various survival missions. In this, her layered surfaces are haloed with the aura of many residual, activating gestures.”

Born in Budapest, Hungary, Ackermann now lives in New York, working out of two studios, one upstate and one in the city. She uses a range of materials, including oil, acrylic, pastel, wax pencil, and raw pigment. “Vertical Varnish” is her first West Coast exhibition.

Complementing Ackermann’s gestural technique comes Zeng Fanzhi’s intimate yet monumental abstracted landscapes. The solo exhibition at Hauser & Wirth comprising 10 of Fanzhi’s works is also the first time the Chinese artist has displayed his work on the West Coast.

Fanzhi’s gestural landscapes, some of which are over 10 feet tall, are inspired by Chinese ink paintings from the Northern Wei to the Song and Yuan dynasties. According to Fanzhi, his works are highly spiritual, navigating the relationship between nature, wildlife and humanity.

“They are not real landscapes. They are about an experience of Miao Wu,” Fanzhi said. “Miao Wu is a kind of revelation. Instead of making something obvious, Miao Wu brought about an unmarked world, which underlies the deep strata of life, both novel and familiar … Miao Wu constitutes a restless journey of discovery.” 

The exhibition layout and design were curated especially by Fanzhi. To prepare for the exhibition, he pinned up the layout of the gallery for an entire year in his studio. Even though the 10 works are separate paintings, he arranged them intentionally so the viewer might view them as a single artwork, Fanzhi said. Accompanying Fanzhi’s oil paintings are six graphite drawings on his own handmade paper.

 In tandem with Fanzhi’s exhibition, Hauser & Wirth Publishers are producing a fully illustrated exhibition guide with essays from Stephen Little, Barbara Pollack and Carter Ratcliff, which explore the relationship between Fanzhi’s work, Chinese painting, Chinese contemporary art and American abstraction. Hauser & Wirth slated the book for release in the fall of 2023.

Both Fanzhi’s and Ackermann’s solo exhibitions are open until April 30, 2023, at Hauser & Wirth’s Downtown LA location. Fanzhi’s exhibition can be found in the South Gallery and Ackermann’s “Vertical Varnish” is on display in the North B Gallery.

Hauser & Wirth 

WHEN: Exhibitions run until Sunday, April 30

WHERE: 901 E 3rd Street, Los Angeles

COST: Free