Noemi Smolik

  • Thomas Locher

    As if to recall the consistency of his project over the decades, some of the works in Thomas Locher’s exhibition “Post-Information” were as much as twenty-five years old. Gestell (Frame), an aluminum shelf engraved with letters, numbers, and black rectangles, dates from 1990. A.1–Z.2, a wooden board on which horizontal black bars as well as letters and digits are inscribed, is even older, from 1989. On the facing wall were two reliefs, composed of rectangular panels of varying thickness painted in different colors. Each is marked with a letter. Insisting on their objecthood and defying any

  • Rita McBride

    If ever there was an exhibition of art that seemed totally secure, literally under lock and key, it was Rita McBride’s “Gesellschaft”: The show included plenty of keys as well as several locks and then more keys. But where is the door they unlock?

    The ten-millimeter steel plates from which the locks and keys were cut were on view as well, although their meaning remained likewise obscure. The use of metal slabs brought Richard Serra’s work to mind, and the installation—most of the objects were arrayed along the gallery’s walls—clearly suggested a Minimalist sensibility in the use of

  • Renata Lucas

    A few years ago, Renata Lucas was asked what she thinks art is for. She replied, “Perhaps it’s one of the few things left that allows us to declare that we don’t fit the given standards.” Her own investigation of those given standards operates in the field of urbanism—more specifically that of metropolitan architecture. Studying the relationship between public squares and private spaces, the intricate workings of traffic hubs, or the ways in which sidewalks form trajectories of experience and social life, she deftly devises ways to break prevailing architectural and social molds, often with

  • Maria Bartuszová

    Imagine a form that exudes vulnerability as well as resolve, pliancy as well as recalcitrance, that features geometric shapes and is nonetheless organic, that looks provisional and yet is timelessly self-contained, that is alive with tension but still imparts a sense of calm, that suggests the most intimate eroticism while attesting to the most refined purity. If this seems impossible to conjure, then look at the work of Maria Bartuszová. Such ambivalence is the defining characteristic of her art and probably accounts for the incomprehension with which these wonderful objects have often been

  • Flo Kasearu

    This show was a spellbinding transformation of reality into fiction, or maybe of fiction into reality. The age-old question of what’s real and what’s just imagined hardly seemed applicable. Instead, we wondered if it would be possible to salvage even a snippet of reality from the growing tide of fictions. Were we not adrift—and buoyantly, even gleefully so—on that tide, floating deeper and deeper into an invented life? This evanescence of the real—and its reemergence—was at the heart of Flo Kasearu’s exhibition “Me oleme teel” (We Are on the Way) at Zachęta Project Roomin

  • Richard Smith

    In his wonderful book We Have Never Been Modern—the original, Nous navons jamais été modernes, came out in 1991—the French sociologist Bruno Latour shines a spotlight on the ways in which Western modernism was obsessed with a process of purification and segregation. In art, this meant that one either created stark abstractions, worshipping the sublime of the Abstract Expressionists or the purity of geometry, or favored Pop art’s embrace of the ordinary and quotidian. Blending the two was inconceivable, and artists who had the courage to experiment with hybrid forms and techniques

  • Hynek Alt

    Once upon a time, the invention of photography sparked great hopes: We would obtain a more objective record of reality by delegating the task of taking its imprint to a technical process. Some languages even call the camera’s system of lenses an “objective.” Yet faith in photography, it turns out, is mistaken, and worse, dangerous: It misleads us into trusting a photographically manufactured image not only more than a painted picture but even more than the reality we see with our own eyes, a trust that has been mercilessly exploited. The Slovenian-born photographer Aleksandra Vajd and her Czech

  • Carolin Eidner

    Verticality as the Speed of Horizon (all works cited, 2014) is the title of one of the pieces in Carolin Eidner’s debut gallery show, “Meanwhile ‘Me’.” The artist has only just finished her studies at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, where Rosemarie Trockel was among her teachers, and, like the title of the exhibition, Verticality as the Speed of Horizon seems to be a kind of programmatic statement. Not necessarily on the level of content, though—what might verticality as the speed of horizon mean? How could verticality be any such thing when it is the opposite of horizontality? And how are

  • Katja Novitskova

    The always-increasing pace of technology has left us adrift on an ever-stormier ocean of digital imagery. How do we stay afloat? By training ourselves to become more attentive, proposes Katja Novitskova, who was born in Tallinn, Estonia, and lives in Amsterdam and Berlin. After all, this is what has enabled human survival since time immemorial. When there’s a branch on the ground, we tend to see a snake: We err on the side of caution. But how to do this today, amid a flood of digital images? Novitskova is interested, she says, in how “media actively redefines the world and culture, and everything,”

  • picks May 09, 2014

    Lutz Bacher

    Lutz Bacher works predominantly with found materials, which is one reason her art anticipates much that is to be observed in the current approach of many young artists. She either places such objects into a content-based context, or she highlights their materials or their formal singularity. For instance, in 1986, she photocopied individual illustrations and accompanying texts from a pseudoscientific book on sexuality, and then reshot these copies and enlarged them. Thus arose a series of graphic black-and-white photographs with even more unusual texts, titled Sex with Strangers, 1986, which is

  • “Speculations on Anonymous Materials”

    “Speculations on Anonymous Materials” was the first exhibition held at Kassel’s Fridericianum under the museum’s new director, Susanne Pfeffer. Its title is programmatic, taking up terms that have recently gone viral in the debates on aesthetics. Speculation and material are traditionally conceived as near antonyms. To speculate is to think about God, infinity, and the absolute—in short, speculation is metaphysics—while materials are a matter of physics. But with the current buzz around “speculative materialism,” all this seems to have changed. The French philosopher Quentin Meillassoux,

  • picks April 09, 2014

    Sigune Siévi

    The eight neon sculptures in Sigune Siévi’s debut gallery exhibition are smooth on one hand and unwieldy on the other. They are robust and fragile. These works can hardly be classified with respect to any one era: They are a perfect blend of Art Deco elegance, Pop audacity, Minimalist exactitude, and they also exemplify contemporary art’s weakness for discarded materials. They radiate a muted light, a dim atmosphere—reminiscent of the moment in which daylight gives way to artificial light in a room. And it is precisely this moment of transition that interests Siévi, who produces these objects

  • Juan Pérez Agirregoikoa

    “I am a good man, I always tell the truth,” says the Spanish artist Juan Pérez Agirregoikoa, and he’s not being ironic. Yet he’s fully aware that to tell the whole, actual truth—expressing the reality of things just as they are—is impossible because it would require transcending the limitations of language. The fundamental dilemma addressed in Agirregoikoa’s work, then, is how to express the truth given the inherent limitations of communication. Agirregoikoa’s “truths” take the form of somewhat cryptic aphorisms, often blending historical references with language reminiscent of political

  • Christian Falsnaes

    The performances of Christian Falsnaes, a Danish artist who lives in Berlin, often seem pretty mean-spirited—even cynical. And yet by balancing his art on the brink of the intolerable, he has given it a unique power. His performances draw viewers in with deft manipulation and involve them in the action. Since the 1960s, this sort of art has generally been described as emancipatory, even though it sometimes has a distinctly authoritarian edge to it; think of Joseph Beuys’s actions, in which the problem of authority was notoriously unresolved.

    Falsnaes’s actions address the issue of authority

  • Basim Magdy

    A black-and-white drawing, strategically placed at the entrance of Basim Magdy’s exhibition “A Future of Mundane Miracles,” curated by Markéta Stará, summed up what the artist’s work is all about. Titled Expanding the Universe and dated 2008, it shows the outlines of a bristly three-legged animal whose head is not easy to make out. Indeed, this creature may be headless; menacing and ridiculous in equal measure, it is, in a sense, absurd. But even more absurd is the inscription on the monster’s body: I KNOW THE SHAPE OF THE UNIVERSE. Could this ragged something really possess, let alone embody,

  • Thomas Ruff

    Thomas Ruff is always full of surprises, and his recent show in Düsseldorf was no exception. A photographer who trained with Bernd Becher and whose early works are black-and-white images of ordinary residential neighborhoods around Germany, Ruff became well known in the 1980s for his large, passport-picture-style color portraits of friends and fellow artists. Starting in 1989, he began conducting experiments with the photographic medium, sometimes making pictures without a camera. As he explained in a 1993 interview with Philip Pocock, his goal was not to capture reality with the camera—the

  • Gillian Carnegie

    How refreshing: an exhibition in which there was no need to focus on anything but the paintings on display. The artist had requested that no press release be issued. There was only a list of titles, with the year of each work and the technical details. That’s all. And so one found oneself standing in a room surrounded by paintings, left entirely to one’s own devices, without any explanation to use as a crutch. We’re not used to this—and so what started out feeling refreshing began to seem disconcertingly unfamiliar. And that’s precisely what English painter Gillian Carnegie is after; she’s

  • “Acts of Voicing”

    The voice has been a major theme in contemporary political theory, especially since Judith Butler began directing attention to the potential violence of speech, for instance in her 1997 book Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative. The great value of the deeply thought-out exhibition “Acts of Voicing: Über die Poetiken und Politiken der Stimme” (On the Poetics and Politics of the Voice) was its demonstration of how the voice has been a theme for art as well. At the center of the exhibition was a projection showing a disembodied mouth: lips, teeth, oral cavity. It was moving fast—too

  • Luis Jacob

    Caution: Exhibitions like this can be addicting. They can make you addicted to images, images of images, images within images, and details—in short, addicted to looking. And this seems to be the goal of Luis Jacob, a Peruvian-born artist based in Toronto. This was his first exhibition at Galerie Max Mayer, which opened a year and a half ago and quickly became a hot spot for young artists. The show not only aroused a craving for images, it used that craving to nurture an awareness of the process of seeing. And it did so with minimal means. Show Your Wound, a set of twenty-six carefully framed

  • Milan Mölzer

    The rediscovery of Milan Mölzer won’t rewrite art history—he worked between the major trends of his era rather than beyond them—but his idiosyncratic and energetic blending of a wide range of contemporary influences nevertheless deserves notice. Born in Prague in 1937, he trained there as a typesetter and frequently acted in theatrical productions. In 1968 he left Czechoslovakia and settled in Düsseldorf, where he studied painting at the Kunstakademie under Gerhard Hoehme, a member of the Informel movement. At the time, the city was host to a vibrant and rapidly evolving art scene,