Curated by John Zorn
December 4, 2008 - January 24, 2009
Kate Manheim hails from a diverse background of academic study and theatre. The daughter of famous translator Ralph Manheim, she received a classical education at the Sorbonne in Paris, specializing in History of the Medieval Ages and Chinese language. Turning her sights towards the acting world, Kate became one of the leading actresses in Richard Foreman's Ontological-Hysteric Theatre in Paris and New York City. In 1983, she was a lead performer in the stagings of Heiner Muller's work by Jean Jourdheuil and Jean-Francois Peyret at the Petit Odeon in Paris. In 1987 she retired from acting and was admitted to Cooper Union in New York City to pursue her passion for art. Since attending Cooper Union, Kate Manheim has been evolving her complex computer-based imagery, creating over 600 paintings, in them calling attention to the mystery of inspiration. In May and June of 1996, Manheim exhibited a lifetime's work of artwork from childhood paintings of Christ to the "grief portraits" of her mother who died in 1985. Manheim's exhibition at CUE marks her first solo show in New York.
Drawing on his experience in a variety of genres including jazz, rock, hardcore punk, classical, klezmer, film, cartoon, popular and improvised music, John Zorn has created an influential body of work that defies academic categories. A native of New York City, he has been a central figure in the downtown scene since 1975, incorporating a wide range of musicians in various compositional formats. He learned alchemical synthesis from Harry Smith, structural ontology with Richard Foreman, how to make art out of garbage with Jack Smith, cathartic expression at Sluggs and hermetic intuition from Joseph Cornell. Early inspirations include American innovators Ives, Varese, Cage, Carter and Partch, the European tradition of Berg, Stravinsky, Boulez and Kagel, soundtrack composers Herrmann, Morricone and Stalling as well as avant-garde theater, film, art and literature.
David Salle on Kate Manheim
About 20 years ago I had the good fortune to work on an opera by Kathy Acker and Peter Gordon that Richard Foreman directed; I designed the set and costumes. It is The Birth of the Poet, and Kate Manheim played the lead, a character loosely based on Cynthia, the lover of Sextus Propertius. Kate had for many years been an icon of the downtown art and theater worlds. Her manner in rehearsal, her attack and her way of internalizing the jagged, prickly and sad libretto stood out. Her character vibrated with urgency. Richard tried to get the other actors to see their parts as similarly necessitated-as if their survival depended on an attitude of not making any excuses. He told them, in effect, that the only thing that would put the play over was their sheer pugnacious audacity, which even in the face of disapproval or indifference would bring the world of the play into existence.
I thought of this little speech when I saw the sizable body of visual work that Manheim has made over the past few years. Her work as an actor in 16 years' worth of Foreman plays was sui generis. She was by turns seductive, disturbing, heartbreaking, vulnerable, funny, manic and mystical. She was the girl/woman alone in a universe indifferent at best, and often malevolent.
In 1987, Manheim retired from the stage and went to art school. It took her a while to find her voice in two dimensions, but with the help of a computer, she managed to rebuild the mystical gaze of her performing self. Her new work seems to answer the question, as Kate would put it, "What do you get when you cross an exhibitionist with a recluse?" The obsessive generosity of this work (I will give more and more of myself) feels aligned with Manheim the actor. The pictures are made by applying variation after variation of pattern and color to linear forms that resemble something humanoid, prehistoric, Mayan and cabalistic. They are, for Manheim, totemic forms. Each is also, as Richard Foreman says, a "Loki," something shape-shifty and hard to pin down. The "art content" is totemic. The patterns are digital manipulations of pieces of iconic art: Marsden Hartley, Léger and improbably Rouault, among others. The result looks like what you'd see if you cut people open and found kaleidoscopes inside. They have a shattered-prism feeling. They're like snowflakes, with that sense of a closed-in magic world, or prayer wheels that have been splintered into pieces and put back together.
Overall the pictures feel shadowed by something dark, something foreboding outside the frame. But some of them have a forthrightness that comes from a value pattern in a major key ? jauntiness in the face of adversity.
BOMB Magazine, Spring 2006, Number 95
by John Zorn
Kate Mannheim is one of the universe's most beautiful and mysterious secrets. A prolific artist of incredible energy and power, her photography, acting, writing and artwork are honest, intense, cathartic and unique in all the world. Working in the hermetic environment of her Wooster Street loft without compromise, apology or acknowledgment, her process is as pure as it gets. Kate is the real deal. An artist who creates for no other reason than she is compelled to. The results are striking, imaginative and speak to the human psyche directly in languages both angelic and demonic. It is an honor to present her work at CUE Art Foundation in this, her first solo show.
YOUNG ART CRITICS: Nora Griffin on Kate Manheim