Astrid Mania

  • View of “Andrea Bowers: Cultivating the Courage to Sin,” 2013.
    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,

  • Page 96 from Henri Chopin’s La Crevette Amoureuse (The Shrimp in Love), 1967–75, typescript  and collage on paper, 11 1/2 x 8 1/4".

    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, About A B order (detail), 2013, mixed media, eight parts, overall 9' 2 1/4“ x 18' x 9”.

    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, Untitled (Guide for Realization), 1976, string, nails, chalk, acrylic, wooden plate, 35 1/2 x 25 1/2".

    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, Old Punk on Pay Phone, 2012, painted aluminum light box with transmounted chromogenic transparency, 92 5/8 x 59 5/8".

    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, Don Quixote Pact, 2010–12, wind turbine generator, electric fans, fiberglass, 7' 5/8“ x 13' 1 1/2” x 7' 6 1/2".

    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, Duchamp Boxed, 1968, electrocardiographic tracing, cardboard box, 1 1/8 x 4 x 2 1/8".

    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, Petit Verre (Small Glass), 2007, shadow theater, wood, fabric, and PVC (music commissioned from Zhuomin Chan), 63 x 24 1/4 x 24 3/4".

    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

  • Jeronimo Voss, Invitation (Воссmанuе рыбаков) (Invitation [Revolt of the Fishermen]), 2011, six laser prints on film foil, theater lights, passe-partout, 17 x 11 3/4 x 13".

    Jeronimo Voss

    Only two years after completing his studies at the Städelschule in Frankfurt, Jeronimo Voss has just had his first solo show in a Berlin gallery, “Восстание рыбаков” (Revolt of the Fishermen). Its subject: the ghosts of history and their manifestation in art. Appropriately enough, his method was illusion—smoke and mirrors. Nothing was as it seemed. The six translucent, framed prints that welcomed the visitor in the main room of the gallery, Invitation (Восстание рыбаков) (Invitation [Revolt of the Fishermen]), 2011, proved to consist of separate, overlapping transparent pictures, dramatically