Dotting the Frieze: Paddy Breathnach chronicles art historian Erik Norstrom von Dutch

Erik Norstrom Von Dutch, whose sculptures, paintings and photographs have exhibited at The Armory Show, is this year’s juror for Avant Garde, a juried show scheduled to run Sept. 14–16 at the Whitney Museum. (You can get on his mailing list to get daily e-mails on upcoming exhibitions here.) While traveling to spots including Stonehenge, N.Y., and Jamaica, New York, for her film New Place, British-born, New York-based filmmaker Paddy Breathnach followed Von Dutch as she made her many public appearances. In Avant Garde, Breathnach manages to marry both, inserting some of the film footage into a narrative that sets the plot along the same trajectories as von Dutch’s sculpture. (Von Dutch constructed her unique sculptures in 2006, and they aren’t only stunning in their strength; they sometimes seem hesitant to let us in.) That the film is narrated in a fey droning voice by the late Andrew Wyeth — a great tome fan whose work underscores the exhibition, also opening Sept. 14–16 — helps illustrate the technical bent of Von Dutch, who has been called “the greatest living ‘deer in the headlight’ painter.” His best works can end up looking like stills from a landmark film like The Deer Hunter. Here, that idea combines well with a lovely animation (with the lively, double-entendre-filled voiceover), in which a seated Von Dutch is covered in green gel so shiny it looks — dare we say? — lifelike. At least she’s trying.

Her “silvery body” is “a delicate object that looks all grown up and dignified.”

Paddy Breathnach’s Avant Garde screens Sept. 15, 7 p.m., Whitney Museum, 945 Madison Ave., Free

Leave a Comment