Inka Essenhigh

Installation Views

b. Belfonte, PA Lives and works in New York, NY

Inka Essenhigh (b. 1969, Pennsylvania, US) is renowned for her dreamlike paintings, which translate her encounters with, and intuitions about contemporary society into haunting, playful, sometimes disturbing visual scenes. Essenhigh is part of a generation of artists that includes Rachel Feinstein, Lisa Yuskavage and Cecily Brown, that rose to prominence in 1990s New York as leaders in the contemporary return to figuration.


Inka Essenhigh paints landscapes from her imagination into which the eyes and minds of viewers might temporarily abscond. Employing a mix of narration, symbolism and mystery, her paintings explore what about nature can be known and what lurks beyond our perception.  Says Essenhigh, “The unknown comes from the painting process, putting brush to canvas. I do have an agenda, and a world I want to create. I’m not interested in meaninglessness. But I am looking for the feeling that the images are coming to me.”

Solo Exhibitions

2019 Inka Essenhigh Uchronia, Kavi Gupta, Chicago, IL

2018 Inka Essenhigh: A Fine Line, Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, Virginia Beach, VA

Inka Essenhigh, Miles McEnry Gallery, New York, NY

Manhattanhenge, The Drawing Center, New York,NY 

2016 Between Worlds, Frist Centre, Nashville, Tennessee New Work, Honolulu Gallery, Zurich

2015 Stars and Flowers, Baldwin Gallery, Aspen, CO

2014 Comet Dust & Crystal Shards, Jacob Lewis Gallery, New York Columbus College of Art & Design, Canzani Center, Columbus, OH

2012 Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo

2011 Pace Prints, New York

2010 303 Gallery, New York

2008 Victoria Miro, London

2006 303 Gallery, New York

2005 Victoria Miro, London DA2 Domus Artium 2, Salamanca, Spain

2004 Sint-Lukas Galerie, Brussels, Belgium Etchings, Michael Steinberg Fine Art, New York

2003 Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami Il Capricorno, Venice Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh

2002 Victoria Miro, London 303 Gallery, New York

2001 Works on paper, Victoria Miro (Project Room), London Works on paper, Mary Boone Gallery, New York

2000 Victoria Miro, London Mary Boone Gallery, New York

1999  New Paintings, Deitch Projects, New York American Landscapes: Recent Paintings by Inka Essenhigh, New Room of Contemporary Art, Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York

1998 Recent Paintings, Stefan Stux Gallery, New York

1997 Wallpaper Paintings, La Mama La Galleria, New York

Group Exhibitions

2020Life During Wartime: Art in the Age of Coronavirus, curated by Christian Christian Viveros-Fauné, organized by the USF Contemporary Art Museum, Tampa, FL, June 06 – December 12, 2020

The Figure in Solitude, Kavi Gupta | Online Exhibition, April 14 – 27, 2020

Radical Optimism, Kavi Gupta | Online Exhibition, April 07 – 20, 2020

Skirting the Line: Painting between Abstraction and Representation, Center for Maine Contemporary Art, Rockland, ME, March 14 – September 20, 2020

2019 The American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, NY

“FIXED CONTAINED,” Kotaro Nukaga, Tokyo, Japan, curated by Tomokazu Matsuyama

2018 Parrallel Lives, Kavi Gupta | Washington, Chicago, IL

Le Nuove Frontier Della Pittura, Fondazione Stelline, Milan, Italy

2016 Dead Among The Dead!, Ellis King, Dublin, Ireland Imagine, Brand New Gallery, Milano, Italy Introductions, La MaMa La Galleria, NYC

2015 Eden, éden, curated by Timothée Chaillou, Galerie Torri, Paris The Ukrainian Diaspora: Woman Artists 1908-2015, The Ukrainian Museum, NYC Painters NYC, Paramo gallery, Guadalajara, Mexico, 16 December 2015 – 23 January 2016; travelling to Museo de los Pintores Oaxaqueños (MUPO), Oaxaca, Mexico, 11 March – 15 May, 2016

2014 Disturbing Innocence, The FLAG Art Foundation, New York Sargent’s Daughters, Sargent’s Daughters, New York

2013 The Golden Ass, Blindarte Contemporanea, Naples, Italy Cinematic Visions: Painting at the Edge of Reality, Victoria Miro, London Pivot Points: 15 Years & Counting, Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, Miami, FL

2012 Fairy Tales, Monsters and the Genetic Imagination, Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, TN; touring to Winnipeg Art Gallery, Manitoba, Canada; Glenbow Art Museum, Calgary, Canada The Sound of Painting, Palazzo Saluzzo Paesana, Turin, Italy

2011 Inka Essenhigh & Richard Van Buren: Un/Natural Splendor, Center for Maine Contemporary Art, Rockport, Maine Inside the Painter’s Studio, Stephen D. Paine Gallery, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston Creating the New Century: Contemporary Art from the Dicke Collection, Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, OH Counterpoint, Center for Maine Contemporary Art, Rockport, ME

2010 Between Picture and Viewer, Visual Arts Gallery, New York, NY

2007 Counterparts: Contemporary Painters and Their Influences, Contemporary Center of Art, Virginia The Game of Multiple Meaning: Symbolism and the Art of the Present, Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal, Germany Comic Abstraction, Museum of Modern Art, New York COMIX, Kunsthallen Brandts, Odense, Denmark Imagination Becomes Reality, ZKM / Museum Fur Neue kunst, Karlsruhe, Germany

2006 Painting Codes, Galleria Comunale d’Arte Contemporanea ,Monfalcone The Complusive Line: Etching 1900 to Now, Museum of Modern Art, New York USA Today, The Royal Academy of Art, London Imagination Becomes Reality, Part III. Talking Pictures, Goetz Collection Motion on Paper, Ben Brown Fine Arts, London Art on Paper 2006, Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greenboro, NC

2005 Life and Limb, curated by David Humphrey, Feign Contemporary, New York Neobaroque, Centro de Arte de Salamanca, Spain

2004 Disparities and Deformations: Our Grotesque SITESanta Fe 5th International Biennial (curated by Robert Storr), Santa Fe, New Mexico 26th Bienal de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil Funny Cuts – Cartoons and Comics in Contemporary Art, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Germany Perspectives at 25, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston ,TX

2003 Painting Pictures; Painting and Media in the Digital Age, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg Comic Release: Negotiating Identity for a New Generation, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh; travelling to Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans and University of North Texas, Denton (January 2003 – mid 2005) Supernova: Art of the 1990’s from the Logan Collection, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA Reverie: Works from the Collection of Douglas S. Cramer, The Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY Drawing, G Gallery, Washington D.C. Heaven & Hell, Barbara Mathes Gallery, New York

2002 The Galleries Show, The Royal Academy of Art, London Pertaining to Painting, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston (28 June – 29 September 2002) and Austin Museum of Art, Texas (November – February 2003) Jay Davis, Inka Essenhigh, Christian Schuman, Angstrom Gallery, Dallas, TX La Part de l’Autre, Carre d’Art -Musee d’art contemporain de Nimes, France (May – September 2001)

2001 My Reality: Contemporary Art and the Culture of Japanese Animation, Des Moines Art Center, Iowa; travelling to Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn (July – October); Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, Ohio (January – March 2002); Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa, Illinois (April – June 2002); Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago (July – September 2002); Akron Art Museum, Akron, Ohio (September – January 2003); Museum of Glass: International Center for Contemporary Art, Tacoma, Washington (July –September 2003); Huntsville Museum of Art, Huntsville, Alabama (October – January 2004)

2001 Hybrids, Tate Gallery, Liverpool braille, Angstrom Gallery, Dallas 2nd Berlin Biennale, Berlin Works on paper: from Acconci to Zittel, Victoria Miro, London Casino 2001, 1st Quadrennial of Contemporary Art, SMAK Stedelijk Museum voor Actuelle Kunst, Ghent

2000 Greater New York: New Art in New York Now, PS1 Contemporary Art Center, New York The Figure: Another State of Modernism, Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art at Snug Harbor Cultural Center, Staten Island, New York Deitch/Steinberg New Editions, Deitch Projects, New York Emotional Rescue, Center for Contemporary Art, Seattle To Infinity and Beyond, Brooke Alexander, New York

1999 Pleasure Dome, Jessica Fredericks Gallery, New York The Armory Show, Stefan Stux Gallery, New York A room with a view, Sixth @ Prince Fine Art, New York

1998 Blade Runner, Caren Golden Fine Art, New York, The New Surrealism, Pamela Auchincloss Project Space, New York Wild, Exit Art/The First World, New York Pop Surrealism, The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut Summer Review, 98, Stefan Stux Gallery, New York Celebrating Diversity: Contemporary Women Painters, Hillwood Art Museum, Long Island University, Brookville, New York ANATOMY/INTELLECT, Stefanelli Exhibition Space, New York

1997 Sex/Industry, Stefan Stux Gallery, New York The Art Exchange Fair, with Stefan Stux Gallery, New York Girls! Girls! Girls!, Tricia Collins’ Grand Salon, New York

1996 Set Off: Inaugural Group Show, View Room Exhibitions, New York Underexposed: Nine Young American Painters, André Zarre Gallery, New York Set Off: Inaugural Group Show, View Room Exhibitions, New York Anatomy Intellect, Stefanelli Exhibition Space, New York Featured Web Page Artist for December, Artists’ Space, New York Night of 1000 Drawings, Artists’ Space, New York

1994 Juried Group Show, School of Visual Arts, FirstFloor Gallery, New York

1993 Young Ukrainian American Painters Group Show, Ukrainian Museum, New York Work-Play: Picture Thinking and the Analogical Imagination, Visual Arts Gallery, New York Group Show: Inka Essenhigh, Stephen Mumford and Leemour Pelli: Paintings, School of Visual Arts, Wooster Street Gallery, New York