Norbert Messler

  • 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

  • BERLIN: “Metropolis”

    Is “Metropolis” an exhibition with a solid concept or not? That is the question you ask yourself after your initial tour of the halls and rooms of Berlin’s Martin-Gropius-Bau. Works by 72 artists from 20 countries worldwide are displayed in some 53,820 square feet of exhibition space: “Metropolis,” teetering between position and provocation, between Modern and post-Modern, focuses on an investigation of contemporary art, that is, art in the allegedly postideological era, the period after perestroika and the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, the period when artwork from the West and the East may

  • Michael van Ofen

    At first glance there is something slightly bourgeois about Michael van Ofen’s oil paintings. Yet there is also something peculiar about them, something conceptual, which makes them appear almost as if they were not painted. These 15 works, grouped around three themes, initially appear adamantly representational. There are pictures of earth-colored landscapes cultivated by human hands and reminiscent of vast aerial photographs. There are seascapes painted to look like an erupting mixture of water and air. And finally, there are interiors that recall the ruins of Gothic cathedrals. To accentuate

  • Peter Fischli and David Weiss

    The 150 small color photographs in this show focus the viewer’s attention on questions about kitsch, clichés, triteness—the kind of questions that are ubiquitous in today’s art. The two prefabricated closets cast in black rubber are also linked to these issues, but they undermine the surface banality as a problem by alluding to closed, hidden, inaccessible things. Yet these works are obviously lacking “art.” This absence is intrinsic in the entire oeuvre of Peter Fischli and David Weiss, just as their fondness for irony and ambivalence in various media, including film, is well known. As a basic

  • Meuser

    As an apparent exponent of a self-reflective practice, Meuser produces austere reliefs and free-standing sculptures that surpass their physical limitations as objects. He achieves this via the introduction of conceptual content in the form of visual associations and highly allusive titles. Meuser finds the material for his art—metallic shards, remnants, and assorted junk—in reality, and he discovers the sources for his titles everywhere. However, he deprives both the found objects and the titles of their original: forms, functions, and meanings, thereby challenging us to rethink our own