Backstage images by Emilio Tini. 22-23 February, Milan.
Name: Rita Ackermann
What project are you working on now?
Preparing for a solo exhibition at MOCA Miami curated by Bonnie Clearwater for the spring. Besides that, just working in studio everyday as usual.
Nearly 20 years ago, you left Hungary to pursue life as an artist in New York City. Your exhibition at the Ludwig Museum in Budapest is the first major show of your work in your native country. In previous interviews, you mentioned feeling anxious about the reception of your work there. How has it been received?
Good and bad. I got the best review that has ever been written about my work and also the worst and most upsetting one investigating my career in the West.
The Ludwig Museum show features a new series, "Fire by Days," which is based on two colors and a single composition. What is this series like, and how did it evolve out of your earlier work?
Got tired of trying to put everything into one painting. Got tired of too many colors and figures, too many options. I wanted to see the variety of possibilities when limitation dictates the working process. I wanted to test my patience, how far I could go doing the same thing over and over... these paintings hold my interest because they are imperfect copies of each other. I can never get them right. Nevertheless, they are too powerful to be judged.
You’ve said that being Hungarian is "a thing" — and that your upbringing gave you a “very strong aesthetic.” How does your background come through in your work?
Oh, I say things sometimes that don't make any sense — cursed by languages. It is ok to be Hungarian, just as it is ok to be Brazilian. In fact, they have much in common. I meant that one's upbringing allows one to form a personal aesthetic.
Critics have said your paintings exhibit an anarchic grunge/punk aesthetic. Who are some of your favorite musicians? Do you listen to music when making art?
Maybe when I was in my early 20s and was screaming for attention, plus it was the '90s. It wasn't disgraceful for one's artwork to be integrated into different media. These days, designers are making art, not the other way around. For this reason, I mostly only listen to solo piano.
You are often spoken about in the same breath as other “enfant terribles” of New York’s 1990s underground, such as Harmony Korine, Larry Clark, Chloe Sevigny, Kate Moss, and Sonic Youth. Did any of these figures have a more profound effect on you than others? What did you learn from them?
Well, I don't understand how Kate Moss happened to be in this list. Why not to mention Martin Margiela or Corinne Day instead? Of course, I've learned a lot from the rest. They taught me America... we worked in parallel universes to each other until the '90s ended.
What's the last show that you saw?
A group show at Massimiliano DeCarlo in Milan.
What's the last show that surprised you? Why?
What's your favorite place to see art?
El Museo del Prado.
Do you make a living off your art?
Where are you finding ideas for your work these days?
In my work.
Do you collect anything?
Books and friends' works.
What's the first artwork you ever sold?
What's the weirdest thing you ever saw happen in a museum or gallery?
What's your art-world pet peeve?
Do you have a gallery/museum-going routine?
Know any good jokes?
What's the last great book you read?
“The Master and Margarita” by Mikhail Bulgakov.
What work of art do you wish you owned?
Cy Twombly’s “April.”