Kristian Vistrup Madsen

  • “Rust & Bones”

    While some things deteriorate with time’s passing, others resist its effects. Or so the title “Rust & Bones” seemed to remind us. But this tight gathering of works by Ulf Aminde, Nilbar Güreş, Laurel Nakadate, and Justin Liam O’Brien was more oblique than that. It was an exhibition about relationality and confrontation that asked viewers to privilege efforts at reconciliation and togetherness over the conflict and isolation that often seem their inevitable outcome.

    In Nakadate’s short video Exorcism in January, 2009, the artist, a young woman, visits an older man in his messy, gray apartment.

  • diary September 26, 2019

    Coup de Graz

    “STYRIAN AUTUMN SOUNDS LIKE BEER TENTS AND NATIONALISM,” a bike messenger said to me upon my return to Vienna from Graz, where I attended the Fifty-Second Steirischer Herbst, Europe’s oldest contemporary art festival. “It’s precisely the opposite,” I retorted. “Think cool graphic design and radical leftist politics—you can add quotes around ‘radical,’ depending on your temperament.” But is this time-honored event actually so incongruent with its rustic surroundings, the undeniably progressive typeface aside? Graz is a place where everything, including Ekaterina Degot’s program, walks the line

  • Veit Laurent Kurz

    “The principles of life are to be found in shit,” wrote Veit Laurent Kurz in the text that accompanied this recent exhibition “Nutrition and Drama.” Here, Kurz told of a freaky tribe of dwarfs called the Dilldapp, whose excrement was said to flow through the pipes we saw in the gallery. The pipes connecting various Styrofoam structures were filled with a grass-green liquid known as Herba-4, the cure for all sorts of ills. Present in various shapes and sizes, the Dilldapp themselves were of a crumbling plaster-white texture and opulently dressed in Biedermeier silks, though dripping sickly pus

  • picks July 12, 2019

    Yalda Afsah

    In Yalda Afsah’s video Vidourle, 2019, a mass of youngsters sift around in murky water, stirring with anticipation. One wears a statement T-shirt that reads, “DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE.” What’s the hype? We don’t know. As the boys run out of the frame, waves glistening, the video cuts to a cropped image of their absence, then to their audience: girls clutching at a fence and biting their lips. A guy whips the ground with a green pool noodle. Afsah has set a scene at once totally disjointed and completely captivating.

    Vidourle and another short video, Tourneur, 2018, are shown opposite and, in turn,

  • diary June 12, 2019

    Mixed Emotions

    FOR TEENAGERS, there is no such thing as too much angst, too much pain, too much love. No emotion is ever enough. This is what made the Norwegian web series Skam (2015–17) such a sensation: It illustrated perfectly the simultaneous intensity and mundanity of adolescence. Most of the time, you’re torrenting Romeo + Juliet in bed and shedding a single tear. At some point, life stops being (as) boring, emotions become burdens, and we cordon them off somewhere. I met Isak from Skam, in real life known as Tarjei Sandvik Moe, at Kunstnernes Hus and momentarily returned to a pubescent state of elation.

  • Torsten Andersson

    It’s circa 1960, and some people are once again starting to say painting is dead. In its terminal state, the monochrome, it has transformed into an exercise in rendering space and void. But at the same time, in Sweden, Torsten Andersson (1926–2009) is frantically attempting a resuscitation. His painting Molnen Mellan Oss (The Clouds Between Us), 1966, although not on view at Galerie Nordenhake, lent its name to this exhibition, in testimony to the decisive role it played in concluding a period the artist termed his “struggle for language.”

    Among the works on display, Ljuskrona av trä (Chandelier

  • diary May 01, 2019

    Shark Tank

    ON FRIDAY, I FLEW TO CÔTE D’AZUR in a private jet, and I am happy to confirm that the Alps are still snowcapped—it’s not all over quite yet, then. The lunch excursion was to Art Monte Carlo, an event that inserts itself into Berlin Gallery Weekend by making available a private shuttle. A luminously beautiful girl who sat with me on the plane got several hundred likes for a selfie taken in its cream leather interior. “Instagram is like alcohol: It manufactures the lack that drives it,” said a Greek collector with indigo eyeshadow who otherwise kept quiet. Her gold bangles rattled as our Mercedes

  • Norbert Schwontkowski

    In Norbert Schwontkowski’s painting Ohne Titel (Dach) (Untitled [Roof]), 2009–12, a group of birds sit on a grid of white roof tiles. These birds are dotted so casually onto the canvas they hardly register as living beings—we wouldn’t wait for them to take off. Schwontkowski’s paintings dip in and out of figuration in the way life does: Sometimes we understand what’s going on around us, but most of the time everything’s a bit of a blur.

    Die von Da” (Those from There) presented an outtake of the late German artist’s works across three decades. The principle behind the selection seems to have been

  • Poul Gernes

    Herlev Hospital, on the outskirts of Copenhagen, is the tallest building in Denmark, and Poul Gernes’s complete interior decoration of that structure remains the largest painting in the country, perhaps in the world. Yet few of the patients who experience it may recognize it as art, for Gernes’s work is as resistant to categorization as it is eye-catching. Not only does his painterly world cut across the borders among Fluxus, Pop, Op, Minimalism, and Conceptual art, it also effaces the distinction between art and design. Gernes (1925–1996) championed the decorative, and insisted on popular access

  • picks February 13, 2019

    “Bubble Metropolis”

    The gallery is bathed in dust-blue light and the tremor of Calder Harben’s sound installation Bodies of Water, 2017–, which is audible only through the excision of everything else. Entering “Bubble Metropolis,” you’re given not just earplugs, then, but also a second layer of over-ear protection. Five recordings, each from a different location, document the auditive consequences of industry and traffic on marine environments. From a highway bridge by Umeå in the north of Sweden, vibrations shoot through the concrete pillars into the river below, unleashing a series of gut-wrenchingly deep

  • Simon Fujiwara

    Rules are made to be broken, they say, but sometimes obeying is just as good a way to cop a thrill. Entering Simon Fujiwara’s installation Empathy I, 2018, you had to draw a number, then sit down on an airport-style chair and wait your turn. The room was totally non-descript, furnished only with the chairs, a table, a water cooler, and some reading material: two dozen copies of E. L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey (2011), all bookmarked at the page listing the rules of engagement between the novel’s submissive protagonist and the dominant Mr. Grey.

    What visitors were waiting to enter, two at a

  • Mathis Altmann, Bonnie Camplin, Salvo, Lucie Stahl, Amelie von Wulffen

    Arguing against reductive reason, the German Jewish art historian, poet, and anti-fascist of the interwar period Carl Einstein wrote,  “Every structuring is a complex function.” Whether that structuring takes the form of a city or a group show, his statement (included in the press release to this exhibition) continues to ring true. Since 2009, as part of the “Curated by” initiative, Viennese galleries have invited guest curators to mount exhibitions under a given theme—last year’s was the somewhat unwieldy “Viennaline.” In response, Melanie Ohnemus

  • Norbert Kricke and Ernst Wilhelm Nay

    What occasioned the painter Ernst Wilhelm Nay’s fall from grace, beginning with attacks published in the newspapers Die Zeit and Der Tagesspiegel in 1964, was not so much his art itself as the immense esteem in which it had been held in the German art scene. It’s been said that in light of Nay’s prominent participation in the first three Documenta exhibitions, for the first two decades after World War II the artist was to Germany what Henry Moore was to England, and what Jackson Pollock was to the United States. An emblem of the old guard, he was considered invincible, but by the 1960s his wholly

  • picks May 11, 2018

    Cosima zu Knyphausen

    Obscuring the windows of the gallery and lending its title to the exhibition, The drapes were light (all works 2018) depicts a life-drawing class attended only by women in bright Victorian dresses. If such a scene ever took place, it did so, like this exhibition, behind drawn curtains. Here, Cosima zu Knyphausen relays an alternative history of female artistry and intimacy in a series of fine ink drawings and paintings that could be described as cute were they not so nonchalantly ballsy.

    With one hand in her pocket and the other one taking a selfie, the figure in Fit mom sets the tone of the

  • diary April 26, 2018

    Regional Delicacies

    “IT’S THE BIGGEST ARTWORK my mother ever bought,” Sabine Langen-Crasemann told me of the Langen Foundation’s Tadao Ando–designed museum space in a field outside Düsseldorf. Her mother sold a 1951 Jackson Pollock to pay for the elegant glass structure, lined with cherry trees. If the parade of luxuriously stalwart Rimowa suitcases at the airport had not made it abundantly clear, we are not in cheaply uncheerful Berlin anymore. Welcome to the Rhineland: the densest landscape of private museums and collectors in Europe.

    At Museum Ludwig on a Tuesday night, as Haegue Yang received the prestigious

  • film April 10, 2018

    Hiding in Plain Sight

    “THE FEMINIST MOVEMENT WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN MY LIFE,” says Ursula Reuter Christiansen in a new interview that’s included in an exhibition at the National Gallery of Denmark, in Copenhagen. The show revolves around her cult classic short film Skarpretteren (The Executioner), 1971, and features related artworks, along with production and archival material. Reuter Christiansen began studying under Joseph Beuys at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 1965, and then left her native Germany in 1970 for a farmhouse on a small Danish island with her husband, the composer Henning Christiansen. “It

  • picks March 12, 2018

    Jonas Lipps

    Going to school means being confronted with a series of possibilities: How might you calculate the slated angle of a roof, review a novel, or paint a picture? Jonas Lipps’s new show of nearly fifty works (mostly untitled and from 2016 to 2018) touches on this theme, not only because many of them directly reference spaces of education but also through their sheer breadth of style. Save for the artist’s remarkably consistent craftsmanship, each piece could be read as the outcome of a different pupil’s absorption of a different lesson; each its own inner world.

    What lines the walls of the gallery

  • interviews February 26, 2018

    Oliver Laric

    Oliver Laric is an Austrian artist based in Berlin. Questioning notions of ownership and originality, he uses 3-D scanning technologies to make historical artworks and other objects available to be copied on his website, Laric’s own ghostly versions of classical and neoclassical statues were exhibited most recently at the Schinkel Pavilion in Berlin. From March 3 to April 14, 2018, he will show new works in the exhibition “Year of the Dog” at Metro Pictures in New York.

    I AM INTERESTED in moving towards uncertainty. My work offers attempts to reinscribe or open up the material

  • picks January 15, 2018

    Stefan Thater

    From the gray Berlin street, one can peer into Stefan Thater’s exhibition like the Little Match Girl into a warm living room. A mix of tusche and oil on paper, Poster Éclair (all works 2017) fills the glass entrance to the gallery with a pock-marked pattern of pale pink, resembling a slide from microbiology or backlit marble. It’s a fantasy of heat that contains all the ambivalence of fire: a nurturing as well as a destructive force.

    The man with the round face alluded to in the show’s title is, we learn, a chimney sweeper—a bearer of luck in German folklore, but also the only person entitled by

  • picks November 06, 2017

    Alice Neel

    In Alice Neel’s paintings there are people and then there are the People. Longshoremen Returning from Work, 1936, shows a streetscape as stage set: figures populating the thoroughfare as the setting sun cuts a cone of light across the pavement. Meanwhile, The Great Society, 1965, from which the exhibition takes its title, shows a bar scene in pale colors, carving the very grain of life into the harrowed faces of a party of drinkers. Much more than representing figures, in this picture Neel has captured spirits.

    Spanning the decades between these two pieces, the other paintings in the show provide