Judit Reigl: Body of Music

February 2 — May 29, 2016
Ellen Johnson Gallery

The first survey exhibition of Judit Reigl’s work at a United States museum, this retrospective exhibition features paintings and works on paper by the Paris-based artist from major public and private collections. Born in Hungary in 1923, Reigl escaped from behind the Iron Curtain in 1950 to France, where she continues to live and work. Best known for her abstract paintings which parallel the interests of the New York School, her artistic approach has ranged from surrealist automatism to the exploration of the boundary between figuration and abstraction.

Judit Reigl: Body of Music follows two threads that unite the artist’s long and disparate oeuvre: corporeality and music. The body has always been central to Reigl’s art, both as a subject and a tool. More than a mere gesture, she often paints with her entire body. Not unlike the American Abstract Expressionists, Reigl utilizes her body as a vehicle to channel her ideas and to transfer them to canvas. In a recent series, Reigl works directly on the floor on her hands and knees, her movements marking a long scroll of paper with an ink-soaked sponge. Bodies appear literally as representations of energetic torsos in her series entitled Man (1966–72). Other times the corporeal operates on a more metaphorical level: in Unfolding (1973–85), Reigl paints on the back as well as the front of the canvas, allowing the paint to bleed through onto the surface. This attention to the back of the canvas acknowledges the three-dimensionality of the “painted window,” thus granting the object itself corporeality. Music is likewise a recurring element in Reigl’s works. She often paints while listening to classical music, allowing the sound to guide the movements of her body as she creates her art. In a series of ink drawings titled Writings after Music, lines of organic forms read as a musical score.

Curated by Denise Birkhofer, Ellen Johnson ’33 Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, with assistance from Mallory Cohen (OC ’15).

This exhibition includes an audio tour stop featuring excerpts from Johann Sebastian Bach’ s 'Art of the Fugue' performed at the Baroque Performance Institute Faculty Concert on June 20, 2014. The AMAM is grateful to our colleagues in the Oberlin Conservatory's historical performance division for the recordings.


Judit Reigl (Hungarian, active France, b. 1923)
Outburst, 1955
Oil on canvas
JRZA Trust, NY