Joe Amrhein Statement

Joe Amrhein is originally from Sacramento, California and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He is the founder and Co-owner / Director of Pierogi gallery and The Boiler (Williamsburg, Brooklyn) and is an active visual artist as well. Known for its inventive program, Pierogi was launched eighteen years ago. Pierogi exhibits the work of contemporary emerging and mid-career artists in a wide variety of media; from drawing and painting, to sculpture, installation, photography, and video. Our artists range from recent graduates having their first exhibitions, to veterans who have been included in important exhibitions such as the Venice Biennale, Site Santa Fe, and the Whitney Biennial. Pierogi has monthly solo shows, participates in art fairs such as the Armory Show (NYC), Art Forum (Berlin), and Volta (Basel) and is also known for its Flat Files that house original works by 800+ artists. As an artist, Amrhein is a painter who works mainly with text on a variety of media, including translucent vellum and glass. He has exhibited widely in the US and Europe.

Artist Statement

My work is a combination of different disciplines— physically, it comes out of painting but the context is conceptual. I use language, text, and font icons as my primary subject with reference to sign painting which gives this language scale and vitality and comes out of my background as a sign painter. The materials I paint on, glass and vellum, besides being traditional surfaces for signs, give me the option to develop the text with a metaphorical content—notions of density, fracturing, memory and shadows as ephemera, among others. The source for most of the text in this work is appropriated, critical art writing, magazines, newspapers and other sources. The notion that this language replaces the context it’s describing—replacing an idea or something concrete with abstract language—is very interesting to me, but bringing this abstract notion of language back into a visual art is even more interesting. The use of translation, cyphers and codes and the fallibility of perception is new to the work. Quoting Robert Smithson, “One must remember that writing on art replaces presence by absence by substituting the abstraction of language for the real thing.” Some of the text I compose is not meant to be read but is used almost as an artifact, because it is so highly fragmented.

—Joe Amrhein