Noemi Smolik


    Curated by Stefan Gronert

    Louisa Clement first attracted my attention with a pile of glassy, inky-black stones on the floor—remnants from the process of detoxifying chemical weapons of the kind used in the Syrian civil war. The objects radiated a pure, lethal beauty. Then there were the sleek and sometimes disjointed mannequins she photographed with her iPhone, which possess a similarly terrifying allure, counterbalanced by their lifelessness and artificiality. This antagonism is the young artist’s guiding theme. For her exhibition in Hannover, which will include nearly one hundred works, she

  • Anvar Musrepov, IKEA Costume, 2017, IKEA shopping bags, cloth, 64 7⁄8 × 33 3⁄8 × 4". From “Alternative Theses.”

    “Alternative Theses”

    There’s a growing sense of discontent with contemporary art. It is too homogeneous, critics argue, and curators seem fixated on a narrow set of themes—migration, gender and minority issues, environmentalism—that make exhibitions predictable and their concerns inauthentic. But that’s hardly true of the art being made today in the young republics of central Asia. “Alternative Theses,” a show curated by Togzhan Sakbayeva at Esentai Gallery in Almaty, Kazakhstan, presented plenty of examples of fresh perspectives, with works by twenty-four artists of different generations from Afghanistan,

  • View of “Mario García Torres,” 2018. From left: An Impossible Crack in Reality, undated; So You, undated; Helmut Berger, The Cordiality Paradox, undated; The Belonging Game, undated. Photo: Jens Ziehe.

    Mario García Torres

    Mario García Torres’s recent exhibition worked like a puzzle. The visitor encountered various parts that at first blush did not coalesce into a coherent pattern or image: Minimalist glass circles suspended from the ceiling (The Belonging Game [all works cited, undated]), a construction of bronze-rod triangles (An Impossible Crack in Reality), an animatronic plastic turtle crawling across the floor (So You), wandering spotlights that lent the setting a theatrical aspect, and—on several occasions during the show’s run—a performer: an elderly gentleman delivering a nonstop oration that

  • Sráč Sam, Šičky (Seamstresses), 2008, digital video, color, sound, 5 minutes 6 seconds.

    Sráč Sam

    In Eastern Bloc countries, socially engaged art has long meant something different from what it means in the West. Under Communist Party rule, such art had to conform to strict guidelines: Artistic autonomy, individualism, and the exercise of the imagination were all considered dangerous. It is for this reason that, when the Soviet empire collapsed in 1989, most artists turned to art that foregrounded subjective expression. They only became aware of their social responsibility later.

    The artist Sráč Sam has faced this responsibility for many years now. Far from the bustle of Prague, she runs

  • View of “Louisa Clement,” 2017. Photo: Trevor Good.

    Louisa Clement

    On first glance, it was hard to say what was depicted in these glossy black photographs. They might be pictures of extremely complex devices, perhaps the kind used in scientific experiments, or they could be of fine machine parts or the dissected limbs of an insect under a microscope. These photos were puzzling in a way that made them uncanny, and like all uncanny things, they triggered curiosity and repulsion at once: Did you really want to know what these images show? It could be something unpleasant.

    But yes, you wanted to know. The subjects are mannequins that Louisa Clement photographed with

  • View of “Christian Freudenberger,” 2017. From left to right: o.T. (tic 2, doppelt) (Untitled [Tic 2, Double]), 2017; o.T (tic), 2017; o.T. (leer, tic 3) (Untitled [Empty, Tic 3]), 2017. Photo: Simon Vogel.

    Christian Freudenberger

    In his recent exhibition “‘tic,’” Christian Freudenberger presented three paintings, all dated 2017 and Untitled, with differing parenthetical subtitles containing the French word that also named the show as a whole. Denoting, as in English, a nervous twitch or tremor caused by involuntary muscle contractions, the term may bring to mind a syndrome that disrupts everyday activities; the power of the unconscious, which eludes deliberate control; or any anomaly that calls normality into question. The titles are programmatic, because these three dimensions—the disruption of ordinary perception,

  • Claus Richter, To Do Bear (1–2) (detail), 2017, steel, fabric, motor, wood, rubber, plastic, 110 1/4 × 27 1/2 × 27 1/2".

    Claus Richter

    “Everything I do here I do with pleasure, and I admit I’m a bit ashamed of that,” says the Cologne-based artist Claus Richter. And a visit to his exhibition “Living in another world” offered a similar experience of guilty pleasure. I laughed at the kitschy plastic orchids in his Singing flowers/Omi Ursula (all works 2017), which hop up and down while singing in what sounds like a squeaky girl’s voice (actually the artist’s), and at the robot in Your little helper (Robot). The latter is a beat-up R2-D2–like mechanical butler whose loose wires hang out of its insides and which kept assuring me,

  • Wolfgang Plöger, Weißabgleich (White Balance), 2016, paper in nine different shades of white; ink-jet print, silk screen, spray paint on paper, 6' 10 5/8“ × 15' 9”.

    Wolfgang Plöger

    “To use a search engine is potentially a political act,” writes Paul Soulellis, founder of the Library of the Printed Web, in the brochure accompanying Wolfgang Plöger’s exhibition “Inherited Lies.” By using a search engine, Soulellis explains, we become involved, whether we like it or not, in an ensemble of hierarchies, preferences, parallels, and comparisons predetermined by algorithms. The moment we hit the “search” button, we subscribe to the order it imposes. But what does that order actually look like? Which hierarchies does it entail, which priorities does it implement, what does it

  • Dike Blair, Untitled (Kyoto), 2013, gouache and colored pencil on paper, 12 × 9".

    Dike Blair

    For more than three decades, the American artist Dike Blair has dedicated himself to an increasingly rare kind of painting. It’s been overshadowed on the one hand by neo- and post-expressionist styles feigning an authenticity that doesn’t exist anymore, that’s no longer possible, and on the other hand by a post-Conceptual approach whose practitioners often act especially cool to cover up the fact that they don’t actually believe in their jaded view of their métier. Blair, by contrast, is all about painting, and about seeing. That may not sound exactly thrilling, and it’s taken critics a long

  • Moritz Grimm, Schlaftablette (Sleeping Pills), 2016, glazed ceramic, glass container, two snails, produce, cardboard, duct tape, 11 3/4 x 23 5/8 x 11 3/4".
    picks December 05, 2016

    Moritz Grimm

    Eve is the name of humanity’s Urmutter, or first mother. Eve also stands for temptation. Both the original mother and attraction are motifs in the exhibition “EVA” by the young artist Moritz Grimm. The title of the show was borrowed from the artist’s partner’s mother, who died before Grimm could meet her. However, he did move into her furnished apartment. Enticement and the mother, especially of one’s own girlfriend, are subjects upon which many would founder. Not so for Grimm. For he turns the topic toward the fairy-tale-like, bringing the gruesome and the fantastic—which together constitute

  • Florian Meisenberg, FM/M 188, 2016, airbrushed india ink, oil paint, and iridescent acrylic paint on canvas, 54 1/2 × 112 3/4 × 1 1/4".

    Florian Meisenberg

    German artist Florian Meisenberg has repeatedly staged confrontations between painted pictures and their digital siblings, and this was the case again in his recent exhibition with the lengthy title “Um, nice guy, good hospitality, but . . y’know . . I-I- I don’t think he knows how to turn on a computer. (brief pause) So . . . but th-the good thing is he’s filling the void . . uh, with coverage in xxxxxxxxxx at the moment so y’know they’re-they’re not drowning.”

    Three sets of pictures were on view: a digital video tiled across four monitors, projections on the floor, and paintings on canvas. The

  • Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, Camshafts in the Rain, 2016. Performance view. Tatiana Feldman. Photo: Simon Vogel.

    Marvin Gaye Chetwynd

    Some sights are unforgettable. Marvin Gaye Chetwynd’s performance Camshafts in the Rain, 2016, produced several such sights, including beetle-like actors wearing enormous colorful paper turbans while stalking around the gallery with the mechanical motions of automatons and a seated Medusa whose head, fringed with giant snakes, rose as a handle was cranked, then collapsed back on her shoulders with a heavy thud. The action was punctuated by moments of silence when the turbaned figures stopped as though glued to the spot. The spectators present the production with the wide-eyed awe of children.