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Justine Otto's heroic paintings work away at the history of painting just as they do at humanity's myths of masculinity. They are broken figures: they stand their ground, but their uniforms, saddle horses, and other symbols of status are permeable or dysfunctional. Speed (2016) shows a rider on he prairie- or is it a German lake welling up under the blue and red sky? A watchful herding dog looks up at the hero, who could be a settler, a Don Quixote or a fugitive. Except that this horse has seemingly unstable wooden posts in the place of legs. 'Speed' of a certain kind may thus be out of the question, but instead we are offered a fast-paced ride though the imagery of art history and pop culture from Emil Nolde to Lassie – and the fragile legs of the horse would seem to serve as an easel. In this manner, all of Otto's subjects and themes are always investigations into painting itself. What is feasible? What is representable? And what are the appropriate techniques? In her new works Otto has emancipated herself from the painter who paints women with a seemingly light hand. In her recent paintings she practices a different form of painting in which she relates figuration and abstraction to one another and makes use of templates. The attention she pays to the heroes is tantamount to a form of liberation, an opening for all of painting's inherent opportunities, things always worthy of reexamination.


Silke Hohmann in Justine Otto's 'Heroes and Hoaxes' at Hatje Cantz




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