Critics’ Picks

Daniel von Sturmer, small world (landscape painting), 2012, single-channel color video, 5 minutes 46 seconds.


Daniel von Sturmer

Anna Schwartz Gallery
185 Flinders Lane
October 25 - December 15

In “small world,” Daniel von Sturmer invites viewers to adopt the singular focus and perspective native to the artist’s studio. Comprising a suite of eight videos, variously projected onto small screens or displayed on medium-size monitors, the exhibition is modest in scale, true to von Sturmer’s choice of title.

The footage in small world (chalk drawing) (all works 2012) documents the artist as he places a piece of white chalk in contact with a rotating black surface. From the artist’s hand, sitting bottom-center of the screen, a delicate white line climbs in a perfect curve to the top of the screen and then dives gracefully back down. Once the circle is complete, and after a pause for contemplation, the hand returns, this time wielding a dampened chalk duster. It consumes the white line, exactly as it was drawn, leaving no trace of its presence. The hand, so careful and so still, seems to be doing almost nothing, allowing the situation to do the work, merely intervening at the correct moment to birth the artwork from the conditions in place.

In both small world (portrait painting) and small world (landscape painting), a black surface becomes host to a stream of thick white paint, which as it slides down, first in narrow lines and then in rivers, is drawn around a triangle invisibly carved into the surface. In portrait painting, the white cascades into the outline of an acute angle, pointing to the center of the screen. With landscape painting, however, the obtuse black triangle is reminiscent of a far-off mountain, or perhaps a black carpet in the corner of a white room.

Von Sturmer attends to his studio and its contents like a mother to a newborn. As viewers, we too are privy to the constant claim they stake on our attention. These fragmentary, isolated gestures produce moments of aesthetic perfection. Strung together, these moments do not form a story, but rather an album—the documentation of a state of mind.