“Antic Measures”

Galerija Gregor Podnar
Lindenstrasse 35
November 19, 2011–January 21, 2012

View of “Antic Measures,” 2012. Foreground: Manfred Pernice, Aufbau (Construction), 2010. Background: Esther Kläs, 3 Solitare, 2011. Middle: B. Wurtz, The Secret of the Pyramids, 1987.

At a time when the practice of transfiguring the commonplace is itself commonplace, this timely group exhibition infuses the cult of the banal with an uncommon playfulness and sensuality. Some of the pieces shown here endow mundane objects with an expressive presence through finely tuned changes of scale. In Lou Hubbard’s surreal video Hack, 2006, a small rubber horse dragged by a string makes its way amid giant makeshift obstacles ranging from an empty Scotch tape dispenser to a transparent plastic ruler, giving a dramatic intensity to the mechanisms of submission and power. Other works use low materials to poke fun at disciplinary classifications: In Manfred Pernice’s whimsical Aufbau (Construction), 2010, a disorderly stack of modular boxes decked out in patchy pink, blue, and brown paint simultaneously evokes a tumbledown architectural model with fading Mediterranean-style pastel facades, a run-down minimal sculpture, and a ramshackle storage unit. Pernice’s work thereby materializes the unresolvable tensions underlying the value and function of art. Partaking of a comic awkwardness and an endearing homeliness, the pieces in this exhibition empathize and dialogue with one another.

Most comic of all, however, are those works in which the inconsequential and the mundane are literally transfigured, taking on an anthropomorphic quality. In Jochen Lempert’s Stadtstrukturen, 2004, a series of photographs shows pairs of pigeons in largely deserted concrete landscapes. These images draw a parallel between human and avian associative patterns, while testifying to the animal kingdom’s ongoing infiltration and reclamation of urban space. B. Wurtz’s suspended plastic bags are suggestive of human forms and clothing, while Ian Kiaer’s Endnote, pink (inflatable), 2010, a huge transparent polyethylene cushion inflated by an electric fan, sits hunched uncomfortably in the gallery space like a brooding, heaving colossus. Oscillating between the organic and the inorganic, the works in “Antic Measures” mock the divide between subject and object, life and nonlife.

— Rahma Khazam