Walking through the throng of bodies in London’s Soho is at once invigorating, as it is unsettling. Stopping isn’t quite so easy as the pulverizing force of bodies advancing from behind move relentlessly onward. Ducking into doorways, making a sharp left or right turn, dodging behind walls are almost the only options for avoiding getting crushed. Navigating the crowd becomes a skill. What at first seems daunting becomes exhilarating. The multitudes coming together in shared synchronicity. Personal boundaries are modified to suit the onslaught of movement.
Beak Street. Riflemaker. Encountered by accident, the gallery is instantly recognizable as the antithesis of the typical sleek, whitewashed walls of contemporary art presentation. Instead, Riflemaker’s wooden floors, unfinished for the past hundred years or so, deluged with the groan of time, flawed and scuffed, creak and rasp underfoot. Walls are paneled, off white, piebald, mottled and bespattered from past shows. No attempt is made to hide pencil marks, scuffs and scratches that become part of Riflemaker’s show history.
For Riflemaker’s December, 2016 show, Wolfe von Lenkiewicz presents as modernist. Emphatically. However, on closer inspection, it’s clear that earnest genetic lineage is at play. There’s no aping of style, no fawning over the master’s brushstrokes, no gushing evocation of bygone eras and name–dropping. Instead, Lenkiewicz is a subtle pioneer, employing the tenderness of figuration found in the renderings of John Singer Sargent, Manet, and Mary Cassatt. Then there’s the seamless integration of Russian Constructivism—enveloping and blotting out the figure, which in turn, reasserts itself on the very structural systems intent on enacting themselves somatically, emotionally, and sensorially on the body.
Lenkiewicz hints at struggle from the perspective of art history, as well as the artist’s search for meaning and subject. This struggle does not leave the viewer in disarray, on the contrary, Lenkiewicz’s work asks for a quiet re–visiting of the past while firmly situating itself in the present. Therefore, the polarity of time is compressed and brings the conversation about abstraction’s possibilities and figuration’s validity into the present. Lenkiewicz struggles to let go of the figure. He’s a master in rendering sympathetic representations of human want, greed, jealousy, and desire. Lenkiewicz’s figures sometimes include Rodin–like contortions amid indefinable, sometimes fantastical, and almost always imagined structural environs. What once was is lost to history—adamantly—unabashedly reasserts itself into contemporary consciousness.