Noemi Smolik

  • Fabrice Samyn

    The objects we identify as art are supposed to be eternal, or at least timeless and present. After all, how could something that isn’t even there be defined as art? This is the question posed by young Belgian artist Fabrice Samyn in his recent show in Düsseldorf. How can absence—and along with it the ephemeral—be captured pictorially? To do this, it must be extracted from its ephemerality and given over to permanence. Take, for instance, a breath, which leaves behind traces on the surface of a mirror. A mirror held to the lips of someone who has just died, lacking the trace of their

  • “The Reality of Lowest Rank”

    Making Central Europe central—how’s that for a change? The focus of this exhibition, whose full title was “The Reality of Lowest Rank; Luc Tuymans: A Vision of Central Europe,” was art originating in Poland, expanding from there in widening geographical circles to other Central European countries (Lithuania, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Romania, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic) and the rest of the world (with works by the likes of Alex Katz and Takashi Murakami). The story was told by Luc Tuymans, who has for many years been traveling through these countries and is in touch with many artists

  • Rebecca Ann Tess

    Not long ago, German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle married his boyfriend of many years. Chancellor Angela Merkel sent her personal congratulations. Christopher Street Day—a gay pride celebration—is a familiar occurrence in major German cities. All this might lead you to think that the question of identity politics insofar as it touches on sexual preference has been laid to rest in Germany. Wrong, says artist Rebecca Ann Tess. Difference is desirable; it’s good for the bottom line in the fashion and design industries, there’s even room for it in the political sphere, and it helps tabloid

  • Alexandra Bircken

    She just really likes handicraft. For many, such a statement would be insulting. But not for Cologne-based artist Alexandra Bircken: She’s proud of her passion for handicraft—for fabrics and wood, knitting and knotting—a much-maligned genre in art. She sometimes even includes the teasing German nickname Bastelliesel (for a person who does a lot of crafts) in the titles of her works. In the tube-shaped exhibition space of the Kölnischer Kunstverein, a long procession of objects clustered, hung, and perched on plinths bore witness to a cheerily humorous take on sculpture that cleverly subverts a

  • Albrecht Schäfer

    This show, “Ein Tag” (A Day), began just to the left of the entrance door, at a height of five foot three inches, the standard eye level for hanging exhibitions. From this point, Albrecht Schäfer hung clippings from the German newspaper Die Welt from February 12, 2010, in a single line—more than three hundred yards of them, containing sixteen pages of news. This line ran through all the exhibition rooms in this Baroque castle, providing a framework for the rest of the show. Anyone with patience would theoretically have been able to read the entire newspaper just by walking along the walls.

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  • Navid Nuur

    “You don’t walk in the exhibition but you become part of it,” Navid Nuur declared in an interview in the newsletter Matter Materializing. This was also true of his show “The Value of Void” in Kassel, Nuur’s first show in Germany and his first large-scale exhibition. Born in Tehran in 1976, he studied art in the Netherlands and today lives in The Hague.

    The show got started even before you reached the entrance to the museum. Between two columns of the Fridericianum’s Neoclassical portico hung a banner announcing the show, with an oval cut out of its center. The black cutout had been sent to the

  • Andreas Hofer

    Time seemed to flow in all directions in this show. While the exhibition’s title—“Andy Hope 1930”—suggested a chronology, 1930 wasn’t the only year that played a role: The 1950s and ’60s were also evoked, largely via images from comics and science-fiction movies, though quotes from the history of modern art and ancient mythology turned up as well. A prime example of this anachronism was the largest picture in the show, the nearly sixteen-and-a-half-foot long Thunder Agent Nevada Doom 4419, 2004. It shows a golden chariot that floats above a sea of flames as it is pulled by red, blue, white, and

  • Milan Grygar

    There are always new discoveries to be made—astonishing ones, even. For me the Prague artist Milan Grygar, who was born in 1926, is one of them. Grygar works at the border between visual art and music, and for nearly fifty years he has been exploring the relationship between image and sound. Early in his career, it occurred to him that drawing a line on a piece of paper made a sound. In 1965, he began experimenting with using various drawing implements—including objects—to intentionally expand these (at first) random sounds to create “sound polyphonies,” which he recorded; he calls the physical

  • Scott Myles

    In this show, “Search and Research,” Scottish artist Scott Myles filled the center of the gallery with a triangular wooden sculpture that dominated the room. The severity and perfection of the form is unambiguously Minimalist, yet at the same time the construction has been painted using sweeping brushstrokes like those of a neo-expressionist picture from the 1980s. Isolated flecks of pink and yellow stand out among the blue-gray tones. So is this a Minimalist or a neo-expressionist work? Myles has conjoined two aesthetic codes that seem inherently incompatible to form a hybrid. And his title,

  • Alex Jasch

    Alex Jasch’s fourth show to date was spare, sober, raw, and unyielding—yet it was not without charm and, odd as this might sound, a distinct erotic charge. Consider Kopfstudie, der Urknubbel (Head Study, the Primal Knob), 2005, in which a small white lump of plaster lies atop a tall, white quadrangular pedestal. The lump is actually the cast of a full garbage bag, whose bulging form and tapered folds recall the curves (with their subtle indications of nipples) in medieval images of the Madonna. Leftover scraps of jute fabric clinging to the edges vaguely suggest pubic hair. It is an all but

  • Sarah Ortmeyer

    For the work that lends its name to Sarah Ortmeyer’s most recent show, “SABOTAGE,” the artist filled the floor of the gallery’s front room with chopped-up shoes made of light-colored wood. The shoes were actually French sabots, peasant’s clogs—the little-known root of the word sabotage: French agricultural workers defended themselves against the mechanization of farming by tossing their sabots into the new threshing machines. In the nineteenth century, it was relatively simple to throw a wrench into the machine of the powers that be; if only it were so easy these days. In this sense, the entire

  • Jakub Kopecký and Pascal Silondi

    Time and space melted away during Udoli (The Valley), 2008, Jakub Kopecký and Pascal Silondi’s cacophonous performance piece, recently staged at Roxy/NoD—an experimental venue in the middle of Old Town. Kopecký, a well-known figure in Prague’s theater community, and Silondi, a French-born artist known for his digital work, here incorporated video projections, reflective glass, and sound to depict a domestic scene as monstrous simulation.

    Eighty spectators were allowed inside the dimly lit space, and found at its center a large reflective glass cube. The performance begins when colorful projections

  • Astrid Sourkova and Markus Selg

    KAI 10 Raum für Kunst was started last year by founding director Monika Schnetkamp as a platform for young artists. For this exhibition, “Der müde Tod oder der Gang über die ekstatische Treppe” (The Weary Death or the Path over the Ecstatic Stairs), KAI 10 curator Zdenek Felix put the space at the disposal of Markus Selg and Astrid Sourkova, both artists based in Berlin. Selg and Sourkova took as the starting point for their installation Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou’s silent film Der müde Tod (The Weary Death, 1921), a paradigmatic example of German Expressionism, in which a woman attempts to

  • “Experimenta Folklore”

    It has been fifty years since Werner Haftmann, one of Germany’s most influential art historians and the curator of Documentas 1, 2, and 3, announced that modernism’s formal language would completely eclipse that of folklore. But even a superficial glance at the contemporary landscape shows how mistaken Haftmann was in his assessment. Today, folklore permeates the very center of modernism and its legacies. It is therefore high time that a show be devoted to this subject, and Tobi Maier, currently the curator of Ludlow 38, a joint venture of the Munich Kunstverein and the Goethe-Institut, New

  • Maki Na Kamura

    The longer you look at Maki Na Kamura’s paintings, the better they become—but also the more puzzling and even alienating. This is because the works are always somewhere in between: between dream and reality; memory and future; gravity and lightness; exuberance and timidity; but above all between Western painting and that of Asia, distinct painterly traditions that these pieces synthesize with a naturalness and facility that do not disguise the work’s enigmatic quality.

    Na Kamura was born in Osaka, as she tells it, in the Year of the Dog. She studied painting in Japan and at the Kunstakademie in

  • Dan Graham and Jeppe Hein

    The American artist Dan Graham has always been a source of fascination to Jeppe Hein, who is more than thirty years his junior. But Hein became a real fan in 1998 when, still an art student, he curated an exhibition in Copenhagen that included Graham’s unrealized 1997 design for the Liza Bruce boutique in London. The encounter with Graham and his seven glass sheets, which form a clouded two-way-mirror installation, remained a powerful influence. Now the artists have collaborated on a joint exhibition. Over the course of two years, they exchanged thoughts, designs, and sketches, sending faxes

  • Tobias Rehberger

    Modern design worldwide has been shaped by the demands of the German Bauhaus: functionality, clarity of form, rigor. Through the years, such strictures have led to a dehumanizing rigidity, pushed further by artists such as Donald Judd who placed form explicitly above everyday life. Tobias Rehberger aims to bring them back into contact. Among his first projects was to commission artisans in Cameroon to make reproductions of classic modernist chairs using drawings he had made from memory. In these chairs, Untitled (Breuer/Rietveld/Berliner Werkstätten/Aalto/Judd), 1994, one recognizes both the

  • Allora & Calzadilla

    Milan Kundera once paraphrased Marx: “Optimism is the opium of the people.” As the twentieth century has shown us, there is a fine line between jubilation and the eruption of violence—above all when there’s musical accompaniment. In Europe, no melody has been used and abused to produce a spirit of optimism more than the “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, a favorite of both Hitler and Stalin, masters of mass seduction. Under the direction of Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, this anthem sounded again at Munich’s Haus der Kunst, which was built by the Nazis as the Haus der

  • Mária Bartuszová

    Mária Bartuszová was little known outside of Slovakia until a cross section of her works from 1970 to 1987 was presented last year at Documenta 12. Born in Prague, Bartuszová spent most of her life in the city of Kosice, in the east of Slovakia (almost on the Ukrainian border), and died there in 1996, at age sixty. Her works are typically amorphous, globular plaster of paris forms fastened by cords to holes in Plexiglas plates. The encounters of the malleable plaster objects—their surfaces painfully choked by twine—with the hardness and inflexibility of the plate evoke not only vulnerability,

  • Miyako Ishiuchi

    Galerie Langhans, which has mounted the first European retrospective of the photographer Miyako Ishiuchi, who represented Japan in the 2005 Venice Biennale, has an unusual history. The Langhans family was a well-known dynasty of portrait photographers whose customers comprised the great and good of Europe, the King of England among them. After the Communist seizure of power, they were driven into exile. When the family reclaimed their home several years ago, they discovered nearly nine thousand glass-plate negatives hidden away—each one a gem. A small gallery in the house offers carefully selected