Noemi Smolik

  • View of “Lutz Bacher,” 2014.
    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

  • Josh Kline, Creative Hands (detail), 2013, silicone, commercial shelving, LED lights, 36 1/2 x 26 x 15 1/2". From “Speculations on Anonymous Materials,” 2013–14.

    “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,

  • Sigune Siévi, Collier (Necklace), 2011, wood, lacquer, neon, glass, cable, dimensions variable.
    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, the machinist leninist forest, 2013, acrylic and charcoal on paper, 63 x 78 3/4".

    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, One, 2013. Performance view, November 7, 2013. Center: Christian Falsnaes. Photo: Alwin Lay.

    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, Expanding the Universe, 2008, acrylic, spray paint, and gouache on paper, 15 x 20".

    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, r.phg.s.06, 2012, digital C-print, 94 1/2 x 72 7/8".

    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, Prince, 2011, oil on canvas, 27 1/2 x 35 1/2".

    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

  • Samuel Beckett, Not I, 1977, video, black-and-white, sound, 15 minutes 6 seconds. From “Acts of Voicing.”

    “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, Show Your Wound (detail), 2010–12, one of twenty-six C-prints, each 2 1/4 x 3 1/2".

    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, Amphibolin Relief, 1976, Amphibolin paint on Plexiglas, 63 x 47 1/4".

    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,

  • View of “Vera Lossau,” 2012. From left: Age of Base, 2012; Mercury Falling, 2012.

    Vera Lossau

    Vera Lossau pulls off an unusual balancing act with her sculptures. They are self-consciously Conceptual but nevertheless display traces of the artist’s hand, and like works in the tradition of Minimalism, they often point to their own spatial contexts, though they also take on a metaphorical dimension—a few are even narrative. Can these things go together? Haven’t Conceptual and Minimalist approaches to art always stood in vehement opposition to expressive and metaphorical, let alone narrative, entanglements? As we see in the latest show by this young Düsseldorf-based artist, the combination