Critics’ Picks

Arturo Herrera, Castle, 2003, collage, 67 x 87”.

Arturo Herrera, Castle, 2003, collage, 67 x 87”.


Arturo Herrera

Haus am Waldsee
Argentinische Allee 30
April 2–June 13, 2010

“Home” is Arturo Herrera’s first solo exhibition in a German institution. There’s at least a little irony in the title, as the artist, a Venezuelan who moved to Berlin in 2003 after many years in the US, takes over a building that was once a domestic residence. Appropriately, the show offers a quiet, intimate overview of Herrera’s recent work, focusing on his preoccupations with such diverse interests as collage, Disney, and Abstract Expressionism.

Herrera carefully manages the precarious relationships among these disparate strands of twentieth-century visual culture, so that a subtle, clever humor prevails. For example, in Castle, 2003, Disney-esque turrets emerge from strips of coloring-book covers that also evoke gestural splashes of paint. In Trigger, 2009, Xeroxed cartoon shapes float like Motherwell Elegies over old illustrations of fairy tales. Even when the works aren’t actually collage, they have a cut-up quality, as in Night Before Last 4R, 2002, a graphite drawing in which two of Snow White’s dwarves morph into stringy blobs reminiscent of Pollock’s drips.

Some critics have interpreted Herrera’s work as nostalgic, both for early modernism and for the cartoons of his childhood. But this doesn’t give his practice the full conceptual credit it deserves. Disney and collage represent polar modernisms: One offers the creation of a parallel world that seems alive but nonetheless keeps us outside it; the other attempts to shatter boundaries between the image and the reality it mimics. By crashing these two twentieth-century forces into each other, Herrera creates a unique, contemporary space that belongs to him alone. But it’s also one that welcomes us, and the real world, in.