Jens Asthoff

  • picks July 17, 2019

    Salome Machaidze

    The wall text for Salome Machaidze’s recent exhibition recounts the fictional story of “Vancouverian rebellion huckers on motorcycles . . . who decided to use non-biodegradable plastic bags instead of paper to create art, write history, and create databases that will never fade, disappear, evaporate, or vanish.” It goes on to explain that disposable plastic has been rarified through art—the high demand has reduced supply and thus mitigated climate change. The utopian theme builds upon an ironic and enthusiastic fantasy of art as vendetta, as a transformer that promises, through a radical

  • Goutam Ghosh

    The Kunsthaus Hamburg and its director, Katja Schroeder, pulled off a coup in presenting “Reptiles,” the first institutional solo show in Europe by the Indian artist Goutam Ghosh. The generously spaced hanging of the exhibition, designed together with the artist’s help, gave his paintings (and a 16-mm film, PAARA, 2017, made in collaboration with artist Jason Havneraas) ample room to unfold their subtle visual idiom. The works were mounted unusually low on the walls; the artist wanted to keep them deliberately close to the ground and to emphasize horizontals rather than verticals. “I found it

  • Marguerite Humeau

    he room was darkened, with ten vaguely anthropomorphic sculptures of various shapes and sizes illuminated by spotlights and scattered throughout—on plinths, on the floor, leaning against a column or wall. The sculptural and material qualities of these works—made of bronze; Portland stone; and pink, black, or brown alabaster—seemed to change with subtle variations in the light and shadows, which made their volumes both corporeal and abstract, and their surfaces fluctuate, almost as if alive.

    Marguerite Humeau’s exhibition “ECSTASIES” was a sequel to her traveling show “Birth Canal,” which debuted

  • Monika Sosnowska

    Three large steel sculptures suspended from the ceiling were the only works in Monika Sosnowska’s recent solo show. Titled Gate 2, Gate 3, and Gate 4 (all works 2014), they formed an ensemble as austere as it was opulent, melding a sense of lightness, even levitation, to leave an almost palpable impression of weight. The title Gate is emphatically prosaic, but given the degree of defamiliarization and deformation, it might equally be considered an attempt at mystification. How these free-hanging steel constructions might represent portals, points of access, or passages was hard to see at first.

  • picks March 30, 2019

    Bernard Piffaretti

    Bernard Piffaretti’s painting run counter to any unity of style while simultaneously pursuing a consistent artistic strategy. This productive contradiction applies not only to his individual paintings or exhibitions but also to his work as a whole, as can be observed in his third solo show at Klemm’s. In 1986, Piffaretti made the decision to divide each of his canvases into halves with a narrow strip of paint. On one side, he develops an abstract composition with rapid strokes, alla prima, often in high-contrast color. Once complete, he executes the same motif, with precision and in a light

  • Dineo Seshee Bopape

    Spellbinding from the moment one first laid eyes on it, the sprawling installation Lerole: Footnotes (the struggle of memory against forgetting), 2018, was an expansive gesture of aesthetic autonomy and a richly orchestrated referential ensemble whose powerful physical presence intimated spiritual dimensions. The piece, which lent its title to this recent exhibition by the South African artist Dineo Seshee Bopape, premiered at the Leopold Museum in Vienna in 2017, but the artist thoroughly reenvisions it each time it is displayed, responding to the specificity of each setting while drawing on

  • Ulla von Brandenburg

    The title of Ulla von Brandenburg’s recent show—eighteen letters in seemingly random order, neither alphabetically arranged nor legible as a unit another way—was also that of the film shown there: C, Ü, I, T, H, E, A, K, O, G, N, B, D, F, R, M, P, L, 2017. While one wondered what this might be an abbreviation for, and how it might relate to the other works in the space, the series of vowels and consonants subliminally leaked into one’s consciousness, as a sung melody that quietly filled the gallery as the soundtrack of the ten-minute-long (looped) 16-mm film. The film was projected onto one of

  • picks January 24, 2019

    “Content is a Glimpse”

    The title of this exhibition refers to those moments of intuitive recognition that can strike when one contemplates painting; as Willem de Kooning said in 1960: “Content is a glimpse of something, an encounter like a flash.” Per de Kooning, curator Jurriaan Benschop is especially interested in the ways figuration can be found in gesture, color, and abstraction, and he notes a similar approach in the five painterly positions here.

    The gray and black, minimalist nuances of David Schutter’s AIC G 219, 2014, and GSMB W 21, 2015, make the two small paintings seem introverted, as if they intend to

  • Natalie Häusler

    Natalie Häusler is a poet as well as a visual artist and typically designs environments in which objects and language organically flow into each other. In this exhibition, titled “Honey,” she created a complex scenario incorporating disparate forms of presentation, linked through open dramaturgical interconnections and peppered with literary, aesthetic, and sociopolitical references. Every attempt to come to grips with the ensemble as a whole led the viewer to further avenues of inquiry and generated ever broader chains of association. 

    The dense polyphony that ensued was thematically bound up

  • Kohei Nawa

    Kohei Nawa’s exhibition “Throne” had an air of exacting elegance: Large-format works from the 2011– series “Direction”—canvases covered with diagonal bands of black on white—shared the gallery with slender sculptures from the “Ether” series, 2014–, made up of austere vertical sculptures structured via a rhythmic sequence of bulging and tapered segments. At first glance, everything suggested an experimentally inflected Minimalism. Other works, however, were at odds with this initial impression, most prominently _Throne (g/pboy), 2017, a hieratic golden sculpture crowned with spikes,

  • Suse Bauer

    Suse Bauer’s work is characterized by apparently contradictory themes and stylistic tendencies. It is rooted in abstraction and characterized by planar arrangements and artless ornament, containing references to Bauhaus modernism and literary quotations while reflecting Bauer’s pronounced penchant for bricolage and the handmade. Her exhibition “Der Abgrund unter mir heißt Zukunft” (The Abyss Beneath Me Is Called Future) included six paintings (oil or oil and oil pastel on paper), a floor sculpture in cast concrete (Untitled, 2018), four large-format black-and-white scans and—as the show’s

  • Johanna Jaeger

    Johanna Jaeger’s pictorial practice unfolds along a variety of trajectories that are always in close touch with a core characteristic of photography: its relation to time. The new works she presented in her recent exhibition “checkerboard sky” translate this program into pictures that fuse complexity with Minimalist precision. Jaeger has devised an open and experimental yet distinctive visual idiom; her motifs are often liquid—drops of colored ink in water—and ephemeral phenomena, such as the process of a form’s gradual dissolution. Jaeger draws attention to modes of transition that

  • Joachim Grommek

    To make his paintings, Joachim Grommek combines trompe l’oeil techniques with abstraction. In his recent exhibition “High End,” Grommek presented new works on canvas alongside three slightly older paintings on chipboard (all Untitled and numbered). Although the new paintings were separated by fundamental formal differences from the earlier works, they were exemplary of his play with the illusionism of the concrete. The compact compositions in small square formats consisted of a large color field, set just a bit off center, in combination with stripes and bands in different hues grouped along

  • Anna Virnich

    What hit you first about these works was their scent. Sweet and subtly intense, it was not so much perfumed as organic. It was also vaguely familiar, even if it was not what you’d expect from a group of abstract paintings. This disconcerting quality is a deliberate component of Anna Virnich’s work. Even before you realize what’s happening, your experience of looking is pervaded by the sense of smell, which combines with the picture’s visual meaning to become part of its elusive materiality.

    Virnich’s work is particularly concerned with the interplay between materiality and perception. Her large

  • Kamilla Bischof

    The six paintings in Kamilla Bischof’s exhibition “Cosmetic Songs” were accompanied by a story. And the works themselves tell multilayered stories, too. Carried by a mercurial and ebullient figuration, they are peopled by various gods, humans, and animals, as well as by siren-like hybrids and fantastical creatures. It is fitting that the short press release, penned by the artist, reads like an excerpt from a novel: Oneiric and picturesque, it’s nothing like the boilerplate you usually get. You could almost think of it as another painting that just happens to have taken the form of writing. A

  • Jean-Pascal Flavien

    The first impression one got from Jean-Pascal Flavien’s exhibition “Ballardian House” was of having entered an artificial reality that was a mirror image of our own. The large-scale ballardian four, 2015–17, for instance, with its cleanly traced forms and precise economy of space, at first appeared to be a house, but its function is more sculptural than architectural. By incorporating textual elements—short passages from the work of the British writer J. G. Ballard—into the piece, Flavien opened up yet another space to the imagination. Put generally, Flavien paraphrased and abstracted

  • Thomas Ruff

    Of all the photographers to emerge from the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and the Becher school, Thomas Ruff has probably pursued the most radical and varied exploration of the nature and history of photography and its genres. With his recent series “press++,” 2016, based on archival press photographs, he once again opens a new chapter. For the enormous range of his work from the 1980s until now, Ruff has consistently pursued two basic lines of investigation: how the medium of photography and its rapidly changing technology shapes our notion of the relationship between image and reality, and how we

  • Caleb Considine

    The eight small paintings in Caleb Considine’s exhibition “Cancelled” might at first have seemed a bit lost in the gallery’s spacious rooms, but they gradually made their presence felt. The generally pale colors—attaining, here and there, a passing luminosity—lent them a dreamlike pellucidity, but also conveyed a sense of determined and prosaic effort. Considine’s art bespeaks genuine devotion to painterly subtlety: Though his craftsmanship was evident, the work was the opposite of mere technical display and razzle-dazzle.

    It also took the viewer a while to understand that the irreducible

  • Anselm Reyle

    In “Eight Miles High,” his first one-man show at König Galerie, Anselm Reyle created a shining sculptural trinity of geometrical abstraction, beautifully combining processes of secularization and re-sacralization. In the gallery’s central exhibition space––the converted nave of the former Saint Agnes Kirche––he placed three free-hanging large-scale aluminum sculptures: Windspiel (Diamond), Windspiel (Square), and Windspiel (Circle) (all works 2017). The setting is both ambitious and demanding: a vast room, forty feet high and more than four thousand square feet in size, whose walls are covered

  • Hanns Kunitzberger

    Compacted voids throbbing with color, replete with an abundant emptiness: Hanns Kunitzberger’s paintings put the critic in the position of having to resort to such paradoxical descriptions. Despite their powerful presence and quiet clarity, they elude the gaze, metamorphosing before the beholder’s eye, their diffused chromatic spaces never quite tangible. Their hazily opaque complexions focus representation on their own existence as pictures. Methodically inward-looking, this art is absorbed in the contemplation of color as phenomenal quality. Works such as Ende 2015 Anfang 2016 später (End of