Jochen Klein

Galerie Buchholz | New York
17 East 82nd Street
February 9, 2017–April 15, 2017

Jochen Klein, Untitled, 1996, oil and collage on canvas, 66 x 57".

Jochen Klein’s current show of paintings, collaborations, and studio ephemera makes plain how deeply enmeshed the artist was in his community and the larger world. Klein was taught painting under the classical master-student model at the Munich Kunstakademie but was doubtful of the medium’s potential. He stopped painting for years and became involved in activism and other forms of artmaking. Thomas Eggerer, a close friend, collaborator, and fellow student at the Kunstakademie, worked with him on writing and a site-specific work. In the 1994 essay “The English Garden in Munich,” Klein and Eggerer discuss the urban park’s deliberate artifice as nature framed for human enjoyment. They made an artwork in the English Garden, too: On the outside of a toilet near a popular gay-cruising area, they installed a kind of public bulletin board, Leave a Message, 1994, bringing private desire into the open.

Klein made unapologetically beautiful images when he returned to painting. Perhaps his hiatus from the activity allowed him to combine the declarative nature of the medium with a self-awareness of the longing that occurs as we scrutinize a work for beauty. Untitled, 1996, is a painting of a large white duck and a small puppy whose beak and nose are so close that the two appear to be nuzzling. Set against a bleary and luminescent green landscape, the collaged animal duo melts into their phantasmagorical surroundings.

Miracles of Life, a 2009 print by Wolfgang Tillmans, hangs in the last room of the exhibition. Tillmans identifies as both an artist and an activist. He was also Klein’s boyfriend at the time of the painter’s death from AIDS—he was only thirty when he died. Klein reminds us of how we define ourselves—and our place in the world—by the company (friends, lovers, teachers) we keep. No one should have to go it alone.

— Yin Ho