Noemi Smolik

  • THE HEART OF IT ALL: ASTA GRÖTING

    IN 1982, WHILE STILL a student at the Düsseldorf academy, Asta Gröting made a six-foot-high scallop shell, perfect in detail, out of mother-of-pearl-toned polyester. Although it was one of Grating’s first sculptures, Pilgermuschel (Pilgrim shell), as the piece was subsequently titled in 1990, is characteristic in its grand scale and almost obsessive materiality. It also introduces a theme that runs like a thread throughout her body of work: the attempt to isolate the creative moment. The Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli embodied this effort in The Birth of Venus, ca. 1485, that painting of

  • Vulto

    Smoke emerges, accumulates, and dissolves. It usually exists only if something is being destroyed, which is why it also stands for the transformation of matter into the immaterial. Though smoke is always intangible, it permeates everything. Indeed, it is these traces that Vulto pursues.

    He smokes fish, whole fish or just their heads, loose fish, and also fish that are gingerly wrapped in cloth, which makes them look injured and bandaged. These fish are then lined up in boxes and vitrines, hung up close together on strings stretched on a wooden frame, or suspended very casually on threads attached

  • Miroslaw Balka

    What strikes one immediately upon entering the gallery with Miroslaw Balka’s works is the emptiness. In the gallery itself there seems to be nothing. The few objects displayed along the walls include: a wooden frame that could be a bed but is filled with salt; a nearly two-meter-long steel tube attached to the wall, its interior likewise filled with salt; other steel tubes of various lengths, filled with salt, salt water, or ashes. These objects produce an impression of absence marked by ascetic purity and rigor, an almost physical absence. Yet what or who is missing here remains a question for

  • Kirsten Ortwed

    What is a piece of sculpture? According to Kirsten Ortwed, it is a solid three-dimensional form and the space surrounding that form. She investigates the interplay of fixed form and space in her work with amazing persistence. Her view of space is not monolithic; it is not simply the area surrounding the sculpture, it is also the space taken up by the work itself. She places a simple cube of untreated plaster on the floor, next to it a steel construction that traces the volume displaced by the cube. An empty space and a space filled with matter face-to-face: this is a simple gesture, actually

  • Maria Lassnig

    Throughout her long career as a painter Maria Lassnig has focused her work resolutely and relentlessly on her own body. Since the late ’40s she has questioned how she can experience her body as a part of her perception, her thinking, her inventiveness, and her pain; it is not merely the object of her work, it is part of her self. Lassnig sinks, so to speak, into her body, using paint to communicate the results of what she finds. Her methods of painting have changed over the decades: sometimes she paints more abstractly, sometimes almost realistically—and then abstractly again. But Lassnig has

  • Mic Enneper

    A long, enclosed black ramp, the walls of which are topped with 20 round steel pipes lying across them, forms a space that narrows as it recedes, exerting a powerful suction that ends somewhere in the darkness. Wondering where it will end, we walk along the almost 65-foot-long wall, eventually coming upon a second structure, in back of the ramp. This structure consists of two cubes linked to the ramp by a ceiling plate. The blocks form a rectangular interior that cannot be entered. A sheet of glass separates the viewer from its leaden-gray inner walls, on which five steel tips on two facing

  • Karin Kneffel

    Karin Kneffel’s paintings negotiate the boundaries of painting—not that they are not paintings—they are unequivocally paintings and good ones at that. But this is the kind of painting that initially makes you wonder. Are these portraits of cows, sheep, dogs, or poultry, which have a vaguely human gaze; are these herds of cattle peacefully placed under a tree in a mountainous landscape; are these paintings and not sentimental kitsch? They are rendered realistically, with energetic brushstrokes. Details such as the eyes or ears of cows and the feathers of chickens are carefully and lovingly worked.

  • Roman Buxbaum

    This work by Roman Buxbaum was installed in the two basement rooms under the gallery. After being empty for many years, the cellar was damp, dank, and dusty, and Buxbaum left the space as it was for this installation entitled Times, 1990–91. On the dirty floor of the first room, viewers saw a circle of 250 portraits of celebrities of the Aargau area from the first half of the century. The effigies of these once-prominent citizens were actually the envelopes of newspaper printing plates that had been discarded as useless. The circle was ringed by three easels, each bearing an oval plate of black

  • Pia Stadtbäumer

    What is the human body? Simply flesh and water, doomed to decay after death, or a flesh-and-water vessel for something ephemeral, for something intangible and invisible? This question has plagued human minds since the beginning of time, and both religion and art have attempted to answer this difficult issue. The representation of the human body almost disappeared from Modern sculpture; abstract and geometric forms have often merely feigned a reconciliation of this body/spirit dichotomy.

    Pia Stadtbäumer, a young artist from Düsseldorf, has taken up this question with renewed vigor. In this, her

  • Antonin Střížek

    A pair of shoes side by side on a white-and-blue tile floor, or a white kitchen chair standing in front of dreadful wallpaper are banal sites and thus highly forgettable. But Antonin Střížek’s clumsy, large-scale paintings of these same subjects are quite memorable. These common objects lodge in our minds; indeed, they drill their way into our memories, where they become a disquieting presence. Yet they indicate nothing but themselves and their own shabbiness, and that is precisely the point; it is this shabbiness, testifying to their poverty, bad taste, and indeed pitiable esthetic incapacity,

  • Jörg Immendorff

    Though the 19th-century notion of the artist as genius is now often regarded as a myth, Rudolf Schmitz’s catalogue essay assures us that it is precisely Jörg Immendorff’s recognition of the complicity between himself and his genius that has led to his “clear-sighted self-portrait.”

    In Solo, 1990, Immendorff sits in a chair; on the table in front of him, we see a champagne bucket containing two bottles, a half-empty glass, a pack of cigarettes, and a full ashtray. He props his head on one hand, his other hand holds a cigarette. Outside, in the background of the painting, the ignorant, seemingly

  • Walter Kütz

    Employing glue-soaked bundles of ragged textiles, Walter Kütz creates configurations that suggest body parts, internal organs, animal legs, or wings. In one instance, a horse’s head formed from old coats, jackets, trousers, and blankets, looms from a wooden bookcase like a gothic gargoyle. Filled with tension and flowing movement, the creased cloth even suggests the animal’s wide open nostrils and pulled back mouth. The tension in Kütz’s sculptures is produced not only by the form that results from the subjugation of the material; the energy seems to be inherent in the twists and folds of the

  • Raimund Kummer

    The experience of viewing Raimund Kummer’s works is usually characterized by a conflict between what one sees and what one knows. In Kummer’s recent exhibition, six apparently heavy granite slabs piled atop one another and separated by wooden shims, prove, upon closer inspection, to be utterly fake. Treated to look like granite, they are, in fact, made of Styrofoam. Even knowing this, however, we have a hard time acknowledging the fact that these “stone slabs” are soft, light, and fragile.

    A color photo mounted on top of the slabs is sandwiched between two glass panes and supported by iron girders.

  • Kulturen

    The world keeps growing smaller, countries keep moving closer and closer together; once disparate cultures now overlap, influencing each other more and more. This is an ironclad fact, even if art theory still manages to sneak past a comparative investigation of the art of various cultures.

    Kulturen—Verwandtschaften in Geist und Form” (Cultures — relations in spirit and form) made an attempt to deal with the art of diverse eras and cultures within the four small rooms of this gallery. It was successful chiefly because juxtapositions defied all conventional criteria. Contemporary paintings and

  • Jörg Sasse

    Colorful plastic bathing caps are exhibited like a bouquet of exotic blossoms; multicolored combs are arranged to suggest a bizarre thorned bush; and a pitiful plastic basket, lined with old-fashioned printed cloth, rests all alone on a equally pathetic blended carpet. There is also a bowl mounted on an elegant curving steel stand in front of a white tile wall, which contains pieces of softened, candy-colored soap. This unusual inventory also includes flowerpots, kitchen utensils, dental equipment in front of a wall papered with photos of palm trees, a plastic garbage can, cloth shoes, and a

  • Jürgen Drescher

    Jürgen Drescher does not make art, he finds it. He finds it everywhere—even literally stumbles over it. Removing a worn carpet from his old apartment or from the home of a friend, he displays it as is on laths. The stains that have emerged over the years, the filth, and the holes burned by cigarette butts form a pattern that is quite comparable to a painting. In this way, a worthless, everyday object becomes a work of art—or does it?

    Drescher’s new works operate at this borderline between an artwork and an everyday object. This time the everyday object that inspired the artist is a security gate

  • Thomas Locher

    A small group of cheap, wood-veneer furnishings set up in the middle of the large gallery: a bed covered with a white sheet, a night table, a dresser, two wardrobes, a table, and a chair. The forms of the individual objects are reduced to their barest functional necessity, unadorned, undecorated; they look austere, severe, and impersonal. They do not exactly entice us to make ourselves at home; indeed, their sobriety intimidates us. We are hesitant to enter the space between the individual pieces. We are also reluctant to read the countless sentences that are carved into the furniture’s wood

  • Emil Schumacher

    Amazing the strength, the energy, the élan vital, the dynamics that radiate from Emil Schumacher’s new paintings. Amazing how much hurt, suffering, experience, as well as resoluteness and intensity, throb beneath the colorful layers, beneath the crustlike surfaces and the black lines that dig like streams of lava into the earthy pigments.

    Schumacher’s paintings are done with nervous, hectic gestures and seeming impatience. Their brittle surfaces evince traces of strokes, slashes, and wounds inflicted by the painter himself. They recall denuded landscapes—a countryside with parched soil full of

  • Haralampi Oroschakoff

    Haralampi Oroschakoff’s paintings consist of painted fragments, which are applied to the surface of a canvas like found ancient shards. One occasionally recognizes a hand, an eye, perhaps even a whole bearded face, and, in between, brush strokes—timid, cautious, irresolute, marked by awe and a touch of anxiety, as if the artist were bearing witness to an epochal event. Oroschakoff approaches painting through Byzantine culture, in particular through the world of Russian icons. In 1966, when he was 14 years old, the artist and his family moved from Eastern Europe to Vienna; recently feeling a

  • “Open Mind (Closed Circuits)”

    For the exhibition “Open Mind (Closed Circuits),” curator Jan Hoet chose as his point of departure a pair of extremes, opposite poles: the “healthy” classical ideal of art, as represented by the academy, and the art of the mentally ill. During the Enlightenment, the period when the academies were established, artistic expression and mental imbalance were regarded as mutually incompatible. In the radiant light of reason, all emotion, individuality, and peculiarity were put down as inadequate, hence inadmissible. The academy demanded an artistic ideal that aimed at regularity, lawfulness, and