Helene Appel’s attention to detail is manifest in a forensic gaze onto familiar objects from an aerial view: the full-to-the-brim kitchen sink, uncooked pasta, a puddle of spilled water, a pollock fillet. The discarded, the everyday, and the domestic are represented objectively and yet, the very act of painting these motifs admits tender attention. Her forthcoming solo exhibition of new paintings at The Approach attest the German artist’s precision and diligence, and asserts a quiet defiance to the cliché of the ‘intuitive’ gesture of the genius painter.
Appel’s new series of seashore paintings differ to the discrete objects that she places on a table in her studio to paint at actual size. The paintings of seawater and the sandy ground bear a relationship to photography in their cropped composition, which does not aim to represent the vista or the landscape from a panoptical position. The installation in the gallery emphasises scale through its stark contrasts between the seawater paintings at architectural scales and a miniature canvas that can accommodate only a single piece of farfalle.
An interest in the representation of transparency and surface carries through from the shore pictures to other motifs: a water spill is adeptly rendered with only a few strokes of translucent white where the light hits the curved edge of the liquid. The viewer’s haptic gaze gauges the shimmering wetness of fish fillets rendered in oil and encaustic. Appel has coated the carefully rendered scabs of food that float at the bottom of the basin with a thick layer of transparent paint that has solidified to represent the depth of the sink.
The tidal sea is, of course, a symbol of perpetual flow. Time and transformation are implicit throughout this exhibition: the spilled water will be mopped up any minute now, the dishwater will drain, the raw fish will be thrown into a hot pan or onto crushed ice, and the pasta is headed for boiling water.
In his sixth solo exhibition at the gallery Meuser presents a group of new wall-based works and freestanding sculptures under the exhibition title “Kann ich mich hier auch selbst einweisen?“ (Can I Admit Myself To This Place?), a title that seems a logical follow-up to his 2014 show ”Herr Ober, zwei Doppelte“ (Waiter, Two Double Shots).
For more than 40 years Meuser has been finding his material, discarded industrial objects made from steel or iron, primarily at the scrapyard. The search for a suitable industrial relic is an essential part of his artistic process; as Meuser puts it: ”Scrap, there is tons of course but it contains a lot of rubbish." Ignoring the original function of the often bulky found objects, Meuser reworks them in the studio, welds them together, or sometimes simply paints them. With minimal interventions the artist thus constructs three-dimensional works that oscillate between sculpture and painting. The arrangement of the objects in the manner of an installation—in particular his wall-based works—facilitates an experience that is rather pictorial. Obvious signs of wear, like marks and scratches, in the material evoke painterly gestures. This effect is enhanced by coating the found objects with ordinary industrial paints and oil. At the same time, the monochrome color infuses the metal fragments with an amorphous vitality and physical presence, evoking an illusion of lightness, which counterbalances the actual physical weight of the material.
The unpretentious and modest vocabulary of Meuser’s more geometric body of work has a constructivist formal clarity that is reminiscent to strategies of Minimal art, especially considering his specific use of materials. With his so-called “Knautsch” works (roughly translated from the German, it means “crumpled“), Meuser expanded this idiom and since 2011 he has developed works that are literally crumpled: i.e., squeezed, crushed, and bent. As a student of Beuys at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Meuser developed his abstract constructivist vocabulary particularity in the context of the work of older colleagues such as Blinky Palermo and Imi Knoebel, who—like Martin Kippenberger—had significant influence on his work. With Kippenberger he shared an ironic and down-to-earth approach to artmaking and he sometimes visited his friend to create titles for the works (“Titel kloppen”), just as one would slam cards on the table in a game of skat.
Ultimately, with his specific handling and installation of the works, but especially with his idiosyncratic titles, Meuser ironically transfers his materials into an everyday world oscillating between banality and poetry. Meuser’s hilarious and disrespectful titles are inspired by the distinctively blunt and irreverent everyday rhetoric of the Ruhr valley, as well as popular songs (“Schlager”), proverbs, or jokes. These titles are found fragments just like the scrap metal, extracted from their original realm of meaning. They render the work as a self-referential whole composed of image and text and allow for new iconographic interpretations and various—sometimes anarchic—associations.
Matteo Negri’s one-person show on March 23rd. Negri is the Milanese artist who uses color as a fundamental element in the dialogue between space and form, and he turns surface and its reflective possibilities into an instrument of research. His works range from environmental installations made of special mirrors and theatrical lighting, to sculpture in which composite materials (epoxy resins, silicone) and steel are employed. This exhibit, curated by Pietro Gaglianò and Ivan Quaroni, is entitled 17 Colored Sculptures and it puts the emphasis on the work Negri has developed over time creating his own formal grammar and linguistic logic based on solid artisanal, technical and design experience.
The artist has created two installations composed of 17 sculptures for the Lorenzelli Arte spaces, as the title of the exhibition states, installations in which space and volume are the protagonists, dialoguing with each other by way of color that creates connections through iridescent glass, steel and mirrors. Through sculpture that open and expand objects and flip planes topsy-turvy and its consequent perceptual disorientation, Negri defines the relationships, near and far, symbiotic yet antagonistic, between the environment and its observer.
In the first room of the gallery there are 12 Kamigami – mutated Japanese word that defines the infiniteness and plurality of the spirit – are composed on a wall in an installation of round, iridescent, perforated surfaces, wholly covered in mirrored steel. A kind of ambiguous porthole that remain unique wall sculptures, reflecting infinite perspectives and flipping over space thus posing the question of its finiteness.
The other ambiance’s ability to disorient is determined by a large installation consisting of five elements: steel and glass of varying sizes dovetailed together that, polyhedral shapes the compose and discompose themselves, produce innumerable reflections thus rendering the pieces catalyzers of infinite points of view.
Through these installed elements, almost “open gems” as Negri calls them, the viewer is called into question, as with contemplative lens, to determine his/her relationship to the works and reconstruct a rapport that ties him/her to that space.
The exhibition is accompanied by a bilingual catalogue (Italian/English) published by Silvana Editoriale with texts by Pietro Gaglianò and Ivan Quaroni, with color reproductions of all the exhibited works and an anthological selection of previous works by the artist.