Review: Amy Sillman, “the ALL-OVER”

PORTIKUS, Frankfurt.

Crackerjack painter Amy Sillman kicks the bucket (of paint, that is) in her current exhibition, conjuring AbEx ghosts so she can slay them with her spirited, calligraphic line work. Her version of abstract painting is more than alive—it is animated.

A humorous digital video, Kick the Bucket (loop for Portikus), 2016, echoes from the entryway. Recordings of vigorous, sharp scratching sound out the act of drawing in front of her studio windowsill to a background chorus of chirping birds. The illustrations, initially made on an iPad, depict dogs, hogs, and humans in a continuous string of transformative events—dying, eating, shitting, and masturbating. A walking skeleton knocks over a pail of canary-yellow paint, a pig coats the screen with color, and then a female figure wearing a military helmet appears to slice it in two.

The dizzy tales continue with “Panorama,” 2015–16, a series of large abstract paintings sequenced along the gallery walls like pages of an expanded accordion book. Scanned illustrations printed on canvas in thick black lines are painted over with muddy layers of gouache or colored ink washes in gray, mauve, or violet, creating shifts in density and a confusion of surfaces. Sillman’s shapes and lines dart in all directions, throwing restraint out the window along with the directionless compass of a bygone era. If her painted marks could script a lesson, it might read something like this: The story is far from over; it’s only just begun.

First published on, July 25th, 2016.

arielle bier