Noemi Smolik

  • Janis Avotins

    What does the show’s title, “I write to you at 20:02 as you wrote to me at 18:08,” have to do with Janis Avotins’s pictures? At first glance, not much. Perhaps it makes us think of the e-mails that mercilessly follow us everywhere at all times—but as for the pictures themselves, their strength lies in their ability to transcend chronological and locational specificity. Gigantic, for the most part more than ten feet high and sixteen feet across, they seem to resist analysis, and their titles aren’t of any more help than that of the show, either. In Nothing from Nothing, 2008, a black cloud

  • Paul Thek

    In the late 1960s and the ’70s, Paul Thek, the American artist to whom Susan Sontag dedicated her book Against Interpretation (1966), seemed to be everywhere. He had exhibitions at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (1969) and at Moderna Museet in Stockholm (1971), and his work was included in Documenta 5 in Kassel in 1972, in the Venice Biennale in 1976 and 1980, and in the big “Westkunst” show in Cologne in 1981. Then his career went quieter. In 1988, Thek died of AIDS, but just four years later Mike Kelley would write, “Now he has suddenly been taken up again by historians. Why? The obvious

  • Joanne Tatham and Tom O'Sullivan

    What presents itself as meaningful is not always so; and what at first seems meaningless can be deeply significant. “Lead Rhetoric & Other Category Errors,” the meaning-laden title of this exhibition by Joanne Tatham and Tom O’Sullivan, who live in Glasgow and have been collaborating since 1995, already hinted at this contradiction. But what rhetoric was at work here, and what errors were in question? The rhetoric was that of Minimalism, and sometimes of Land art. Using the same form in various contexts, the artists might place a large cube in a landscape, or a smaller one in a museum on a

  • Jiří David

    In Prague, where Jiří David lives and works, he is already widely known. Zare (The Glow), 2000, the glowing neon crown of thorns he constructed above the roof of the classical exhibition and concert hall Rudolfinum, and Heart on the Castle, 2002, a gigantic red neon heart above Prague Castle, the center of power of the Czech Republic, have both left a lasting impression. He also continually attracts notice with his critiques of Czech cultural politics, published in the local press, decrying the country’s provincialism and dilettantism, which he feels have forced its artists into harmful isolation.

  • “Talking Pictures”

    When, in his 1967 article “Art and Objecthood,” Michael Fried attacked the Minimalists for their theatricality, he could not have known that his critique would affect the dialogue between art and theater for decades to come. Even videos, performances, and installations became antitheatrical. But no more: Today’s films and videos feature drama, role play, and pretense—a point underlined by K21 curator Doris Krystof in her wonderfully installed exhibition “Talking Pictures.”

    Theater is, above all, a form of social interaction, and as such, it has not only an aesthetic but an ethical component;

  • Poul Gernes

    Although Poul Gernes, who died in 1996, is well known in Denmark, where he exerted a decisive influence on the development of the local art scene during the second half of the last century, his reputation is just beginning to extend beyond the borders of that country. While the colorful panels from his “Stripe Series,” 1967–68, were shown in Kassel as part of Documenta 12, this Berlin show offered a look at Gernes’s earlier work. He made these pieces soon after joining forces with art historian Troels Andersen in 1961 to found the Eksperimenterende Kunstskole (the Experimental Art School), known

  • Lisa Tan

    Never before have I seen such an austerely conceptual exhibition with so few images and so much text that, at the same time, was imbued with such lightness, tenderness, heartfelt longing, imagination, and even humor. For her previous show in Munich, New York–based artist Lisa Tan plotted out an imaginary journey in The Garden of Earthly Delights, 2004, that would take her to visit all the publicly exhibited works by Hieronymus Bosch in 124 days. In this exhibition, “The Baudelaire Itineraries,” she turned her attention to the writings of the French poet, art critic, and dandy Charles Baudelaire.

  • Katie Holten

    In a society that increasingly excludes nature from everyday life, how can today’s art engage with the natural landscape? Katie Holten—born in Dublin and living, nominally, in New York although primarily on the road—is looking for an answer to this question. “I’ve always preferred to question things in a silent way, or at least a less aggressive, in-your-face kind of way,” Holten once said in an interview. And, indeed, it is true that her approach to nature is one of meditative affection. Her meticulous India-ink drawings, depicting trees without foliage, branches, imaginative structures of

  • Friedrich Kunath

    Two long, narrow rooms, right next to each other, both visible from the street through high windows—this was the setting of the installation by Cologne-based artist Friedrich Kunath at Galerie BQ. Although the two rooms could only be entered separately from the street, they were connected by one element: In the right-hand room, the flue pipe of a small green tiled stove went through the dividing wall and twisted around in the left-hand room. Apart from this pipe, however, the two juxtaposed spaces seemed to contain two completely different worlds.

    Recent paintings by Kunath covered the entire

  • Tommy Støckel

    There’s a story about Max Bill, the director of the Ulmer Hochschule für Gestaltung, which after 1945 aimed to follow in the tradition of the Weimar Bauhaus. It is said that he could be driven into a state of white-hot fury by a bouquet of flowers placed in one of the school’s rooms. The plants’ exuberant forms went against the strict clarity of modernism, based on the principle of the square and the view that this form has eternal and universal validity; flowers, by contrast, wilt and fade. In his sculptures and installations, the Danish artist Tommy Støckel questions precisely these two basic

  • Markéta Othová

    The photographs of Markéta Othová, a young artist who lives in Prague, could hardly be described as spectacular; in fact, they consciously oppose the avalanche of images produced by mass media. Always black-and-white, unframed, and about 43 x 63 inches, her images are discreet and unobtrusive, a pointed critique of the relentless deadening that occurs to the inhabitants of our “photographic universe,” as Vilém Flusser warned.

    Othová travels a great deal, taking pictures of the landscapes she sees—meadows, beaches, parks, and streets; people rarely appear in these photographs. When she arrives

  • Tomma Abts/Tony Conrad

    Two concurrent exhibitions at Galerie Daniel Buchholz recently offered an unusual contrast: Large-format paintings by the American artist Tony Conrad were hung in the gallery’s old space, while the new one housed small-format paintings by the London-based German artist Tomma Abts. At first glance, the contrast couldn’t be greater: Conrad’s pictures were created in 1973, Abts’s in 2006; the older paintings are the work of a filmmaker and musician, the new ones, of a dedicated painter; his paintings are enormous, hers are always the same modest format, 18 7⁄8 x 15 inches. Despite these differences,

  • Ralf Ziervogel

    What was this? Limbo, hell, a disco gone out of control, or just a little taunt directed at elaborate installation art? Not necessarily any of these. A torture chamber or purgatory—purgatory as a space of purification? Who can say for sure? After all, what is seen “is never found in what is said,” as Michel Foucault once put it. Still, I have to try to describe this installation, Mamaterial, 2006, by Ralf Ziervogel, a former student of Lothar Baumgarten at Universität der Künste in Berlin and one of the most promising young artists around. The installation (based on the artist’s graduate project)

  • Jiří Kovanda

    In Prague, Jiří Kovanda has long been considered an artist’s artist. His actions and works, and his self-understanding as an artist, have had significant influence over a broad range of younger Czech practitioners. Yet his work has rarely been seen in exhibitions, and some critics have not taken him seriously because of his lack of formal art education. Although he is now fifty-three, this is Kovanda’s first Prague gallery show; indeed, it is the first exhibition to survey the great range of his work. Thus he has titled the show “The First Kovanda Retrospective.”

    Kovanda began his activity as an

  • Margarete Jakschik

    The thirty-five framed photographs in this debut solo exhibition were small and pale, with subjects that don’t reveal anything spectacular—and yet the works of Margarete Jakschik, a Polish-born artist who has lived in Germany since 1980, when she was six years old, fascinate at first sight. Jakschik completed her studies at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf two years ago under the tutelage of Thomas Ruff, but little connection is made here to his artistic process. Indeed, Jakschik’s photographs are rather the opposite of Ruff’s: subjective, intimate, contingent, passionate—even romantic.

    For years

  • Wawrzyniec Tokarski

    They are not narrative images. Yet Wawrzyniec Tokarski’s paintings tell stories—stories that wrap themselves like masks around the images, creep into the consciousness of the viewer and, above all, don’t soon leave one in peace.

    Tokarski, born in Gdansk but now living in Berlin, focuses his paintings on the typographical element of emblems, logos, and trademarks. In so doing, he circumvents the obvious impact of their visual triviality by forging conceptual connections with contradictory meanings: “Sprite” turns into “Spirit,” or “Levis” into “Evil,” or typographically recognizable traits from

  • Fikret Atay

    When I first saw Fikret Atay’s work almost two years ago at Büro-Friedrich in Berlin, I was immediately impressed. His videos struck me as at once strange and familiar. When I saw them again recently at the Kunstverein Düsseldorf, the contrast between familiarity and strangeness was even more pronounced, and I realized that it is precisely this feeling of contradiction that makes these videos—by a Kurdish artist from Turkey—so fascinating and attractive.

    In the video Fast and Best, 2002, teenagers perform Kurdish folk dances. The video shows only their legs clad in jeans and sneakers or boots,

  • Frances Scholz

    From the beginning, Frances Scholz wanted her paintings to rise above the opposition between narrative and abstraction. All along, she has challenged herself with color, line, and pure form—the elements of painting. And yet she didn’t want to stick with just that. The world of her paintings was not meant to renounce all relationship to reality, even though she didn’t want to paint narrative pictures. But how can one carry this ambition off?

    In her most recent paintings, Scholz has discovered a method that allows her to do so. Photos, symbols, and logos from the daily press provide her starting

  • Jiří Georg Dokoupil

    Jiří Georg Dokoupil is a famous painter despite his insistence that he can’t paint. In vain he once tried to paint like a proper Impressionist. After working at it for more than a year, he simply gave up. Even at that time, though, he already had a reputation as a painter. As part of the Cologne-based group Mühlheimer Freiheit—which at the beginning of the ’80s took to the paintbrush in protest against rigid Minimalism and intellectual Conceptualism—he gained international renown. This was at a time when most progressive thinkers were of the opinion that painting was dead.

    But

  • Leiko Ikmura

    How can the invisible be made visible? I’m not thinking of ideas, say, which can be depicted through allegory, as European painting has done for centuries. There is another invisibility, the process of becoming: transition, the unfinished, emptiness—the space that makes an occurrence possible, emptiness as origin and potential. How can this be made visible?

    Leiko Ikemura, an artist born in Japan who has lived for thirty years in Europe—first in Spain and Switzerland and today in Germany—has attempted, through her paintings and sculptures, to make visible the void and the process of becoming. As