Noemi Smolik

  • 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

  • View of “Annette Kelm and Michaela Meise,” 2011–12. From left: Michaela Meise, Observatory Crest, 2004; Annette Kelm, Magnolia #1, 2001; Michaela Meise, Iris, 2010.

    Annette Kelm and Michaela Meise

    What would happen if a photographer known for her carefully composed still lifes collaborated with a maker of detailed, body-oriented, skillfully balanced sculptures on a joint exhibition? The result turned out to be an empty room on whose spare walls a few images were painted. That’s probably not what Christina Végh, director of the Bonner Kunstverein, had in mind when she asked photographer Annette Kelm to prepare an exhibition in dialogue with an artist of her choice, but Kelm’s collaboration with sculptor Michaela Meise could indeed be described this succinctly. This was the third such

  • View of “Jon Shelton,” 2011. Floor: Study for Brisk Tea, 2011. Wall: Brisk Tea / Dick Armey, 2011. Back room: Start Packin’ Granny, 2011.

    Jon Shelton

    Jon Shelton is an American but he has been part of the scenery in Cologne for years. One can usually find him at a garage space around the corner from the Hotel Chelsea (named after the famous Chelsea Hotel in New York). Patiently, he lets visitors peek into the two hundred-square-foot rooms where he creates and stores his life’s work. It is also from here that he has run his company, Oscitant Enterprises, for the past seven years. On the firm’s website, Shelton offers his services in very professional language: Oscitant both manufactures products to order and sells a line of the company’s own

  • View of “Anna K.E.,” 2011.

    Anna K.E.

    “Gone Tomorrow”—the exhibition title alone says a lot. Only the future can determine what happens in the past. All the longing and nostalgia we project onto yesterday can come face-to-face with all the utopian ideas of a brighter—but why brighter?—tomorrow. Nowhere in the tradition of Western art has the idea of utopia been more concretely expressed than in the realm of architecture. From Claude-Nicolas Ledoux and Etienne-Louis Boullée at the time of the French Revolution to Le Corbusier, the ambassador of modernity, architecture has concerned itself with creating spaces for a

  • Phyllida Barlow, untitled: structure, 2011, wood, paint, plaster, and screws,  approx. 33' x 56' x 25' 6". Installation view.

    Phyllida Barlow

    Her former students Tacita Dean, Douglas Gordon, and Rachel Whiteread are internationally famous. But Phyllida Barlow herself? She earned her bread not as an artist but as a teacher at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, though she never stopped constructing her gigantic objects, wobbily propped up on wooden stilts, made of old carpets, used wooden battens, and scraps of cloth, all lashed together and caked with cement, plaster, and paint. Her focus, in these huge, precarious, unfinished-looking sculptures made of shabby materials, was anti-form and anti-architecture—soft shapes, decay,

  • Fabrice Samyn, From Matter, 2010, egg tempera and oil on canvas, 11 3/4 x 9 1/2".

    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

  • Pavel Büchler, Eclipse, 2009, mixed-media installation. From “The Reality of Lowest Rank.”

    “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.

    Like

  • 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

  • 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