Astrid Mania

  • picks May 03, 2019

    Ilse Henin

    In West Germany, the late 1960s were a notoriously vibrant time of political and social unrest, artistic solidarity, and experimentation, often combined with anti-capitalist critiques. For Ilse Henin, a student in those years, it was a formative period. Trained as a painter, she would go on to dedicate her life and art to global political engagement. “Chile Mappe” (Chile Folder), 1974, for instance, is an early series of illustrative graphics that comments on the brutality of the Pinochet military regime. However, in the late 1970s, Henin took a break from the art world, as she—like many of her

  • picks February 10, 2017

    Christine Wang

    It is probably fair to say that for many of us, art provides a kind of relief. We spend time in exhibitions pondering social and economic injustices—thinking we’ve done our part. Maybe this is even true for artists themselves, but certainly not for Christine Wang in this exhibition. Here, she presents a number of uniformly sized paintings that, in their combinations of image and text, can come across as pro-porn, anti-Trump, or shopping-positive statements—or as the exact opposites.

    Wang unsettles our certainties and markers of identity. She agrees with some of the statements on a T-shirt, featured

  • Anna Oppermann

    Any one of Anna Oppermann’s “ensembles” is something like a woman-made big bang. Originating in a physical and conceptual nucleus, it expands in space and time. Some could potentially keep evolving into infinity, while others might reach a point of stasis or even shrink. Despite the works’ scale and material heterogeneity, Oppermann expressly avoided the term installation. Paintings, photographs, painted-on photographs, drawings, found images, texts, fragments objects, mirrors—these are the elements of her universes. Some are hot, detailed, dense, and intricate; others are cool, measured,

  • Józef Robakowski

    Can an artistic practice developed in resistance to—or maybe simply out of disregard for—one ideological system prove equally defiant in another? The answer is a resolute yes when it comes to the oeuvre of Józef Robakowski, who has been an active participant in the Polish art scene since the late 1950s.

    Outside of his native country, Robakowski is probably best known as a structuralist filmmaker and experimental video artist. As such, he was celebrated in a traveling show at the Goethe-Institut’s Curatorial Residencies Ludlow 38 in New York and at the ZKM | Center for Art and Media in

  • Robin Bruch

    Objects in this exhibition may have been more complicated than they appeared. Robin Bruch’s prosaically titled exhibition “Major Works on Paper (1972–1985) II” looked like yet another painting show, but it actually raised quite a few questions of ethical-curatorial concern. Bruch, born in the United States in 1948, was introduced to the Berlin art crowd by Mathew three years ago, after the Berlin-based American artist Megan Francis Sullivan stumbled on her work by chance and brought her to the attention of the gallery, which staged the first chapter of what can now be seen as a two-part

  • Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt

    When a political system collapses, many an artistic practice goes down with it. This is obviously the case for those who were affiliated with the ruling power and its ideology, but the same is often true for the underground artist working in resistance to them. Such artists face the threat of a twofold damnatio memoriae: Forced to work in hiding, excluded from access to a state-regulated art infrastructure, they are usually known to a small circle only—either at home or abroad. Come the revolution, however, external interest in this oppositional art also often dwindles. This was, for

  • Joachim Bandau

    Joachim Bandau is nearly eighty, his Berlin dealer very young by comparison. Agewise, they are not the only unlikely couple on the city’s art scene. It seems as if the younger generation has been gradually discovering elder or even recently deceased artists with hitherto modest curatorial or commercial recognition. Just recently, Daniel Marzona even opened his gallery with the work of Bernd Lohaus (1940–2010), more famous as a gallerist (Wide White Space, Antwerp) than as a sculptor.

    But what motivates these alliances? Clearly not the allure of a household name. In some instances, a mature oeuvre

  • Michael Müller

    Austrian writer Robert Musil’s most famous character, the “man without qualities” known to readers only as Ulrich, spends an entire novel stumbling through the year 1913, a native of the fin de siècle lost in the dawn of the twentieth century. At first glance, Michael Müller, who considers Ulrich a soul mate, seems just as much at odds with his own time. Musil’s lost young man was also the spiritus rector of Müller’s recent exhibition “Was nennt sich Kunst, was heißt uns wahrsein?” (What is Considered Art? What Does It Mean to Be True to Oneself?), an exceptionally intense—even

  • Friedrich Teepe

    There was a lot of ancestor worship at Gallery Weekend Berlin this year. Showing the likes of Gordon Matta-Clark (at Galerie Thomas Schulte), Philip Guston (Aurel Scheibler), or Lynn Chadwick (Blain | Southern), it seems, not only promises economic success but assures something like conceptual solidity, while at the same time offering the appeal of DIY materiality and an art-historical frame of reference. The late Friedrich Teepe (1929–2012), with his monochrome canvases and soft sculptures—he called them padded objects—was another of these elders, but something of an exception to the

  • “Rosta”

    Those in power—or those striving for it—often resort to the force of images. Art historian Martin Warnke posits that in the past, rulers might have paid more attention to the creation and propagation of a political iconography than to proper governmental acts. Such imagery, he insists, had to take into account both the sender’s message and the linguistic capacities, expectations, needs, and norms of the receiver. Stalin certainly understood this double coding when, in 1934, he established the method of socialist realism. Apart from illustrating the party’s directives, Soviet art had

  • Nancy Graves

    Nancy Graves is probably best remembered for her life-size, ostensibly realistic camel sculptures. When, in the late 1960s, über-collector Peter Ludwig discovered his passion for contemporary art—at the time, mainly for US Pop art—he acquired Graves’s Kenya Dromedary and Mongolian Bactrian, both 1969, for his newly established Aachen museum, Neue Galerie Sammlung Ludwig. The camels were a hit. And this didn’t change when they later moved into the Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst, where the furry creatures stood stoically next to works by Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Duane

  • Sharon Hayes

    Let Anita Bryant be muted. Yes, I admit that deep down in my heart, the image of Bryant, singer and notorious campaigner against gay rights, taking a pie in the face (as she did in a 1977 televised interview) does trigger a certain schadenfreude. Still, there is something paradoxical about the fact that the overhead projection that showed this infamous moment, I Saved Her a Bullet, 2012, formed part of a show that was all about the modulation of the (female) voice. But of course the image of Bryant is double-coded in that it bespeaks both her attempts to silence the gay community and that

  • picks October 15, 2013

    Andrea Bowers

    Art and activism don’t always blend well, and at times the combination results in work that features what might at most kindly be described as activist readymades: hours of video footage, piles of pamphlets, or unedited documentation as a nostalgic trip back to the good old days. Yet Andrea Bowers’s debut exhibition at Capitain Petzel, a thrilling ride devoted to ecofeminism, makes a difference in that it has both an outspokenly social and a decidedly aesthetic agenda. It is even—dare I use the F-word?—fun.

    Take, for instance, Radical Feminist Pirate Ship Tree Sitting Platform (all works cited,

  • Henri Chopin

    How to write about Henri Chopin? How to do justice to an artist who devoted himself to the purification of language? How to honor beautiful, brilliant works when the artist would have rejected such attributes because of their philosophical implications and when the vocabulary used to describe a “pure” practice is per se contaminated, trailing so much philosophical and ideological baggage behind it? When deconstructing language by means of language is like fighting fire with fire? Chopin (1922–2008) set out to deconstruct language as we know it, fusing sense and nonsense and transforming words

  • Heinrich Dunst

    It may seem far-fetched to describe a visit to a Conceptual art exhibition as an Alice in Wonderland experience. If the effect of Heinrich Dunst’s show was somewhat dizzying or disorienting, it was not because the artist had somehow given up his practice of translating discourse into (often quite monosyllabic) artworks. Rather, the feeling of having stepped through the looking glass arose from the way in which the exhibition seemed to adhere to a definition of sense that bordered on the nonsensical.

    The exhibition as a whole was thoroughly choreographed. It started off with wall works and gradually

  • Jan Kotik

    Why are we so in love with the art of the 1960s and ’70s? Maybe because in our times of nostalgia and ironic detachment, it promises to satisfy a very contemporary desire for authenticity. Artists from that period, we feel, were exploring, not revisiting; their formal experiments were original, driven by an urgency that was fed by a belief in aesthetic, social, and political transformation. Maybe something of this utopian drive lives on in certain recent manifestations of what might be called social sculpture, but in the more object-based forms of contemporary art, this spirit seems to be lost.

  • Rodney Graham

    There’s always a lot of Rodney Graham in a Rodney Graham show. In “Rodney Graham: Canadian Humourist,” however, we often seemed to be seeing the artist unmasked, even though he still loves to slip into someone else’s work, someone else’s role. Yet in many ways this was a classic Graham exhibition: a complex network of cultural and personal references, with the rather inconspicuous photogravure Meissonier with My Thumbprint, 2009, as something like its epitome. Here, Graham reprints an etching of a soldier and his horse by the nineteenth-century French painter renowned for his minutely detailed

  • Vadim Fiškin

    Vadim Fiškin makes art. “Well,” you might ask, “so what else is new?” As empty as the statement may sound, it really encapsulates Fiškin’s practice: His objects and installations look as simple and blunt as that sentence, and they are similarly mystifying. The works featured in his recent show “Light Matters 2” are little ontological riddles, impossibilities, feats of logic-defying causality, at once images and reflections on imagemaking and its conditions. The installation miss Christmas, 2012, for example, is nothing but the shadow of a black palm tree growing out of a paint can. But there’s

  • Brian O’Doherty

    So they still exist, these miraculous little shows in Berlin’s galleries, when, for a little while, commercial spaces shake off the unbearable lightness of the mercantile world to become little kunstvereins or museums. Thomas Fischer has succeeded in just such a maneuver with his presentation (cocurated with art historian and filmmaker Boris Hars-Tschachotin) of “Brian O’Doherty: From Electrocardiogram to Rope Drawing.” The show is simultaneously a concentrated retrospective and a display of changing perspectives. While O’Doherty—an artist of many facets and at least two names—is famous

  • João Penalva Galerie

    “The back of magic” is what writer Diana Evans calls that area of the theater behind the stage where, as she says, the black hat and the rabbit are stored. In the visual arts, it’s much the same. To peer behind the scenes of a presentation, addressing the techniques or ideology of the display itself, can have a disenchanting effect—can produce unveilings and enlightenment, exposing the tricks by which works of art present themselves and the mechanisms behind their stories. This show by João Penalva was devoted to uncovering this realm, yet hardly appeared intended to do any disenchanting