Norbert Messler

  • Gilbert & George

    Gilbert & George’s approach to autobiography stems from a long tradition of social commentary in British art. They are as concerned with societal values and autobiography’s moral compass as they are with increasingly complex relations between individuals and the masses, and these concerns find graphic realization in their new work, “The Naked Shit Pictures.”

    The subjects covered in these 16 paintings verge on the horrifying: human nudity, excrement, city streets, the masses. Gilbert & George themselves are the only common element. In these new paintings, Gilbert & George conjure up the true

  • Corrinne Wasmuht

    For this exhibition, Corrinne Wasmuht produced two brightly colored, large paintings with deep perspectival fields. In both works, one feels as if one is looking through a microscope. The subject of both works seems at once easy to grasp and elusive. Though Wasmuht deals with medicine and nature, what kind of nature is it where soulless structures can be transformed into decorative and colorful ensembles?

    Upon closer examination, it is clear that these paintings originate in textbooks of human and veterinary medicine. Each image depicts a cross section of tissue, thus, the images are fundamentally

  • Anne Loch

    The seriality of Anne Loch’s work is essential to her conceptual project and also reveals her work’s connection to kitsch and the conventions of landscape. Loch’s new, large-format paintings pose the question of painting’s own legitimation in an idiosyncratic, yet obvious way. At first, they seem to have taken an individual path: pictures of deer against a pink background, tinged red at the edge; red rose blossoms—schematic diagrams made geometric on a black background; giant grapes, leaf and crystal formations, all demonstrate the artist’s direct confrontation with the environment.

    Monumental,

  • Markus Lüpertz

    A tour of the abstract and concrete, a lasting impression of expression, less so of technique, a decorative aftertaste, art-historical contextualization with Aleksey von Jawlensky, Paul Klee, Pablo Picasso, A. R. Penck, and Georg Baselitz among others. Markus Lüpertz titled the entire show after his series “Männer ohne Frauen—Parsifal” (Men without women—Parsifal). In the catalogue his work is described as reflecting an identity in constant development. The title refers, of course, to the medieval courtly romance of Wolfram von Eschenbach of the same name, and offers a bridge to Richard Wagner’s

  • “New Sculptures”

    The city of Antwerp, the cultural capital of Europe in 1993, has maintained an outdoor sculpture park in Middenheim since 1950. There are about 450 works—ranging from Rodin to Calder to Zadkine—in the impressive Arenal, a large park with wooded and meadow areas. This exhibition of new sculptures is limited to one area of the park and serves to update the holdings in contemporary sculpture. Ten contemporary artists—Isa Genzken, Harald Klingelhöller, Per Kirkeby, Richard Deacon, Panamarenko, Didier Vermeiren, Thomas Schütte, Bernd Lohaus, Matt Mullican, and Juan Muñoz—placed their sculptures (

  • Stefan Höller

    Pictures from the superior court in Düsseldorf—an unusual take for an art exhibition. The paintings of Stefan Höller speak as much to the viewer’s consciousness and attention as to his interest in contemporary (or historical) events in life, art, and politics. In these works Höller invokes Willy Spatz, Joseph Beuys, and Markus Wolf. Spatz was a late representative of the Düsseldorf school of painters. From 1887 to 1926, he was a professor at the academy there, and in 1913 he created a painting with scenes from German legal history for the large courtroom of the superior court. Beuys was a

  • Stephan Balkenhol

    Stephan Balkenhol’s recent exhibition consisted of 12 small female nudes carved from a single block of wawa wood. The figure and pedestal are all of a piece, and seem to be worked from inside the wood—a technique that recalls his 57 penguins from 1991. Additionally, there are two round pictures, two drawings, and a “headless man” that are the same size as the nudes but in which the figures are fully clothed. (The headless man may be a reference to Dionysus of Paris, the third-century French martyr, who came to Paris from Rome and walked to St. Denis with his head in his hand after being

  • Thomas Struth

    When photographed by Thomas Struth, sunflowers, yarrow, mallow, lilies, and delphinium express something very strange. In lieu of traditional interpretations of the flower—the rose as equivalent to love or the blood of Christ, the tulip as symbol of inflexibility, and the violet as evocative of youth and modesty—Struth’s flower photographs realistically capture the generative growth cycle of a plant. Unlike Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs of flowers, these are never sexualized, rather, they seem undisturbed, peaceful, modest. Wherein, then, lies their attraction?

    One could speculate that it

  • Wiebke Siem

    In an anonymous lithograph from 1840, we see a Shaker meeting. The believers dance in two circles toward one another, segregated by sex. The two groups don’t touch each other. Difference, distance, and isolation between the sexes is the subject of these works. On the wall, in the background, the coats and hats of the dancers are hung in a very orderly fashion; within each group they are exactly the same, but each group is styled to be either masculine or feminine. This scene is alienating; it tells us of an esthetic of difference, and of a silence between the sexes that leads them both on a path

  • Georg Herold

    One needed imagination and humor in order to enjoy this exhibition of Georg Herold’s work. For if one approached the work with tried and true ideas about art—questions about its sublimity, pedagogic intentions, or social relevance—one would simply laugh or nod in disbelief looking at his pot holders on wooden constructions. But this laughter, coupled with a joke or even cynicism, was generally stifled by Herold’s emphasis on the triviality of our daily life.

    In these pieces, Herold worked playfully with pot holders. They are quite simply the materialization of a function, free of esthetic

  • Rosemarie Trockel, Andreas Schulze

    Rosemarie Trockel and Andreas Schulze offered two perceptual models in this exhibition. On the one hand, there was a certain continuity, even familiarity to the show: works either knitted or painted in acrylic were installed to make an interesting exhibition. On the other hand, this exhibition was markedly different: in a game with their own traditions, the artists confronted themselves and each other by way of their works.

    Trockel’s eight works and Schulze’s three were shown in separate rooms. Both artists seemed to work in their individual mediums and to remain faithful in form to their previous

  • Philip Akkerman

    Philip Akkerman’s 30 self-portraits pose numerous problems: what lies behind the scenario of one’s own portrait? Is it perhaps a philosophical model of the presentation of the artistic self? Or, through art, an unrestrained exercise of ego? Or a serious contemplation on the essence of existence? Or, perhaps, is it a certain freedom inherent to this genre of art, through which the artist can become the impresario of his or her own appearance?

    Though Akkerman’s self-portraits range from 1981 to 1992, they share a common trait: in all of them, the artist makes eye contact with the viewer. Akkerman’s

  • Julia Scher

    This exhibition of Julia Scher’s works seemed to say that art has to be a partner with life. Does this mean more realism, more real-life references, more social relevance? Art’s content, if it could be exactly defined, would thus be a more-or-less direct expression of life and the creation of images that would reproduce life. For this reason Scher’s work has a dramatic effect as its goal. That this effect works on a social and linguistic level, as well as on a moral and psychological one seems not to matter. For this work’s primary area was the gallery, as the title of the installation, Zwirners

  • Second Nature

    Art is always realistic, because it tries to create . . . that which is foremost reality. Art is always idealistic, because all reality that art creates is a product of mind.

    —Konrad Fiedler, On Judging Works of Visual Art, 1876

    We meet them in almost every culture. As bringers of fire and water, as founders of law and order, as teachers of arts and crafts, and as inventors par excellence they are central figures in mythology. We call them “bringers of culture” and “divine tricksters”1 because they enjoy mediating between the gods and human beings. There’s Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods

  • “The Carpet Project”

    The walls are empty; in this show the action is on the floor. With about twenty carpets of differing sizes and motifs, the mood is one of peaceful contemplation, much like the atmosphere of a mosque. In felt slippers, the visitor may walk over the carpets in quiet reflection, experiencing the works on display in a direct, bodily way. Collected here are such diverse artists as Rosemarie Trockel, David Robbins, Walter Dahn, Rob Scholte, Guillaume Bijl, and Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Yet the commonality of medium does not transcend the forced adjacency of images with their different motifs, patterns,

  • Titus

    The gallery space was stuffed to the gills with neatly arranged East German refuse—that is, you instantly think of refuse when you see the faded flags, the old toys, the gray paper bags and yellowed boxes, the jars and bottles, the blue work smocks—the kind of stuff you get rid of when you feel it’s old, useless, or defective. And you think of the (former) German Democratic Republic, a deceased system, as soon as you take a close look at these objects, for example, the cross on the wall. This cross, roughly constructed, is made up of metal, an East German license plate, and a toy car (a Trabi,

  • Hubert Kiecol

    This exhibition of Hubert Kiecol’s drawings was divided into three parts. However distinct the groups and their titles—“Waben” (Honeycombs; all works 1991), “Heilige” (Saints), and “Leitern” (Ladders)—may be, the interrelationships among the parts are obvious. What they share, along with the single size of each individual series, is the artist’s urge as a draftsman: using powerful lines, he tries to find a balance between filling surfaces and draining them, between the translucence and the opacity of the images. Still, all these works convey a sense of elementary lightness. The blending of these

  • General Idea

    “Wellcome” to the world of drugs: AIDS is the theme. The most widely prescribed antiviral medication, AZT, manufactured and distributed by the Burroughs-Wellcome Company, is equated here with a placebo. There are no cures for AIDS; there are, however, pills that extend the lives and the disease of HIV-positive people. Any prospect for radical change in this medical situation is dim; the disease remains fatal. Research, we are told, is dragging, while society is now more, now less interested in the topic. Although AIDS is a cipher for both the acute and the constant threat to human existence,

  • Stephan Balkenhol

    The sight of Stephan Balkenhol’s 57 penguins is overwhelming: the smell that (temporarily) emanates from them is peculiarly fishy, originating in the wood. The birds—mostly alone, sometimes in twos, occasionally with an egg—are on pedestals of various heights, roughly at the viewer’s eye level. And they assume all the positions that penguins are known to or thought to take on land. Many of them are upright, using their stiff tail feathers as supports, a few are prone; others, peering sideways, down, or back, raise a wing in penguin fashion. Here, as in nature, the sexes are the same color, and

  • Jean-Frédéric Schnyder

    Works by the Swiss artist Jean-Frédéric Schnyder reside in the public domain of painting. For his subjects he pilfers a grab bag of the already known; the same is true of his techniques. Everything is here. Small-format paintings show landscapes, dolls, everyday objects (for example, a sugar cube); they are either painted in an amplified, expressive way, simply sketched, or hinted at pointillistically. Each painting has its unique, intrinsic signature; and each one could even have been done by any other artist—that is, if it weren’t for its relationship to the other paintings and the linking