Henni Alftan
March 11–April 29, 2023
Opening reception: Saturday, March 11, 6–8pm

7351 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles

Karma is pleased to present Visitor, an exhibition of recent paintings by Henni Alftan. The exhibition is Alftan’s first in Los Angeles and will run from March 11th through April 29th at 7351 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles.

Visitor extends from Alftan’s ongoing investigation into the construction of image and narrative sequence. She utilizes the constituent elements of painting—color, line, texture, shape, composition—to create complex tableaux out of restrained gestures. In The Lake (2022), Alftan assembles simple geometric forms into a kaleidoscopic image of a pink canoe and forest, reflected across the surface of a lake. Subtly shifting the color palette at the point where land meets water, Alftan transforms the abstract blocks of color into a recognizable landscape. She is equally deliberate in her application of paint, oscillating between flat and textural brushwork. In Pink Bathrobe (2022), she juxtaposes the dense brushstrokes of a fluffy bathrobe against the crisp, flowing streams of wet, slicked-back hair. Textural and tonal variations recur throughout the exhibition, prompting unlikely associations between subjects, such as the flat pink of a lower eyelid and the surface of a canoe. 

Alftan crops her compositions carefully, allowing what lies beyond the frame to remain a felt presence. As she explains, this framing is “a lesson that I learned from cinematic imagery, that the less you see the more you project.” Curtain IV (2022) demonstrates multiple levels of cropping: the painting itself frames a close shot of a domestic interior, while the depicted curtain obscures half of the window’s view of a mountainous landscape. 

Images of hands abound throughout Visitor, functioning both as semiotic signifiers in themselves and as narrative devices. This (2022) depicts a pointing finger, simultaneously representing the gesture as its subject and pointing the viewer’s eye toward the other paintings in the exhibition. Hands also appear posed in a mock gun, carrying playing cards, extended in greeting, holding a match. Alftan’s use of this simple yet multivalent motif recalls that of the choreographer Yvonne Rainer in her film Hand Movie (1966), oft-described according to her tenet: “No to spectacle. No to virtuosity.” Her works equally evoke Baldessari’s final series, The Space Between, in which he obscured the context of found images, leaving viewers to consider the figures and objects that remained. 

Alftan engages the viewer of her paintings like a reader, creating space for the projection of narrative through the careful withholding of information. A diptych titled Non-stop (In-between) (2022) depicts the first and last letters of the word NON-STOP in neon lights, omitting the center of the text between the two canvases. The visitor fills in the missing information, projecting the complete image into the interstitial space. 

Henni Alftan (b. 1979, Helsinki, Finland) is a Paris-based painter. Recent solo and group exhibitions include those at Sprüth Magers, London (2022); Aïshti Foundation curated by Massimiliano Gioni (2022); Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2022); Institute of Contemporary Art Miami (2022); Sprüth Magers, Berlin (2021); Karma, New York (2020); ENSA Limoges, École Nationale Supérieure d’Art (2020); Kuntsi Museum of Modern Art, Vaasa (2018); Hämeenlinna Art Museum, Finland and Musée des Beaux-Arts de Brest (both 2017). Alftan will be featured in a forthcoming exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Finnish National Gallery. Her works are included in numerous public collections including those of the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Helsinki Art Museum; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami; Portland Museum of Art; Dallas Museum of Art; Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Finland; and the Kuntsi Museum of Modern Art, Vaasa.