Critics’ Picks

André Butzer, Untitled, 2008, oil on canvas, 99 x 79".


André Butzer

Galerie Guido W. Baudach
Potsdamer Strasse 85
May 2–June 13

As opulent as usual, André Butzer’s new paintings are currently on exhibit at two locations in Berlin: Guido W. Baudach is showing six riotously colorful paintings and, as if to mark a contrast, Max Hetzler’s Zimmerstrasse gallery offers five grayish large-format works.

By Butzer’s standards, the paintings at Hetzler, with their relaxed orthogonal lines and fields, are almost reserved. For several years, Butzer has been making nonfigurative works that emphasize pictorial forms and entail a colorful materiality. These works have grown out of his recognizable brand of figuration, which is both childish and drastic in nature. In the works in both exhibitions, Butzer has continued to develop and refine his interest in abstraction. His recent works are more desolately improvised, however, and make profane use of impasto.

In the brightly colored selection of works at Baudach, rudimentary traces of figuration remain. The works exhibited at Hetzler are of the same caliber, but they are essentially more purist and stoic than those at Baudach. In the paintings at Hetzler, which all have gray backgrounds, Butzer has created labyrinths out of the yellow, orange, red, and (less often) green and blue lines that are applied onto the canvas directly from the tube. The contrast between the gray and the color is raised to the level of the sculptural, giving the paintings a dry yet rhythmic structure, an aristocratic remove.

Conversely, at Baudach primary colors reign: Here, Butzer’s unmixed paint results in flamboyant contrasts. Green, orange, red, blue, and yellow, along with pink, beige, and flesh tones, form dense, irregular, interlocking shapes that become complex and appear downright uncouth. In his characteristic connection between the subtle and the drastic, Butzer offers more loose brushstrokes than before, dribbling, and colorful detritus. These motifs make his paintings strong and constitute a step forward within the context of his work as a whole.

This exhibition is also on view at Galerie Max Hetzler, Zimmerstrasse 90/91, until June 13.

Translated from German by Jane Brodie.