Noemi Smolik

  • View of “Henning Fehr and Philipp Rühr,” 2016. Photo: Simon Vogel.

    Henning Fehr and Philipp Rühr

    Psychedelia is back, or so Benedikt Sarreiter and Paul-Philipp Hanske insist in their 2015 book Neues von der anderen Seite: Die Wiederentdeckung des Psychedelischen (News from the Other Side: The Rediscovery of the Psychedelic). The two journalists champion a reassessment of psychotropics, whose sophisticated use, they argue, can help us navigate the vicissitudes of life. They note the current renaissance of these drugs—which had fallen out of favor after their heyday as the favorite hallucinogens of the counterculture—at the Burning Man festival, for example, which draws thousands

  • View of “Dóra Maurer,” 2015. Foreground: Four From Three, 1976. Background: Inter-Images 1–3, 1980–90. Photo: Ondřej Polak.

    Dóra Maurer

    I first encountered Dóra Maurer’s films at a 2012 symposium on aspects of Central European art at the Sächsische Akademie der Künste in Dresden, and I still have a vivid recollection of watching them as though in thrall; their power drew me in. Starting in the 1970s, the artist, who was born in Budapest in 1937 and still lives in the Hungarian capital, undertook a searching examination of change through experimental films, photographs, paintings, collages, and drawings. How can an image embody change? Any change implies movement, so one can always analyze it, break it down into component images,

  • View of “FORT,” 2015. From left: About Blank (Billboard), 2015; One in a Million, 2015. Photo: Achim Kukulies.

    FORT

    Although it is often rendered in English as “uncanny,” the nuances of the German word unheimlich are famously difficult to translate. The negative prefix un- modifies heimlich, which derives from Heim, home, and originally means “familiar.” Unheimlich, then, is what is unfamiliar, strange, and, by extension, vaguely menacing. And the objects, installations, and performances of FORT, an artists’ group founded in 2008 by Alberta Niemann, Jenny Kropp, and Anna Jandt, who left in 2013, are certainly strange. Unheimlich also aptly describes the objects in their recent exhibition “About Blank.”

    Even

  • View of “Thomas Locher,” 2015. From left: A–H, 2002/2015; A–G, 2002/2015.

    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, Greenland, 2015, plasma-cut steel plate, 60 3/4 × 81 1/2".

    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, desague (drains), 2015, asphalt, cast iron, steel, stainless steel, PVC, water, 3 1/8 × 17 3/8 × 20 7/8".

    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

  • View of “Maria Bartuszová,” 2014.

    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, Väljakasvanud (Grown Out), 2013, C-print, 29 1/2 × 37 1/2". From the series “Väljakasvanud” (Grown Out), 2013.

    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, Window I, 1978, acrylic on canvas, 75 1/2 × 72 1/2".

    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

  • View of “Hynek Alt,” 2014. Background: Untitled (Chair), 2014. Foreground: untitled, 2014.

    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

  • View of “Carolin Eidner,” 2014. From left: Ignorance Towards What Really Is, 2014; Verticality as the Speed of Horizon, 2014; Twilight Demand, 2014.

    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

  • View of “Katja Novitskova,” 2014.

    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,”