Critics’ Picks

Astrid Klein, CUT II, 1986/1996. Transparent film, 101 x 144.5”.

Astrid Klein, CUT II, 1986/1996. Transparent film, 101 x 144.5”.


Astrid Klein

Sprüth Magers | Berlin
Oranienburger Straße 18
February 1–April 6, 2019

Focusing on her radical elaborations of feminist collage, “CUTS” presents two distinct bodies of Astrid Klein’s work, offering an intimate perspective into the artist’s production process. The twenty so-called drawings included in this exhibition—all made between 1973 and 1981, and thus before her breakthrough around ’84—encompass hand-drawn sketches, symbols, and notes taped onto materials such as aluminum and transparent foil. The drawings set an idiosyncratic backdrop for the exhibition, which circles around violence, sex, desire, and fear, and are accompanied by “CUT I–X,” 1986–96, a series that explicates the radicalism of Klein’s “photowork” collages while literally occupying the museal wall space with their epic scale. Here, the viewer is overwhelmed by mass-circulated images, such as film stills of female idols like Jean Seberg and Monica Vitti, enlarged and adhered to translucent film strips. These are then overlaid with text, creating a somewhat episodic narration of a woman’s struggle. In CUT II, 1986/96, for instance, Klein inscribes Vitti’s image with a short poem from her own diary: “I have nothing / to offer / anybody except /my own / confusion.”

Because Klein held a crucial position in the ’80s Cologne art scene, it could be tempting—though wrong—to read her practice through Benjamin Buchloh’s or Craig Owens’s canonical early ’80s theorizations of the allegorical collage. Rather than exaggerate the spectacle of mass-media circulation in order to fragment the unified self and flatten Vitti’s subjectivity into a cliché, she inscribes her own intimate thoughts into the picture. Klein’s lunge toward affinity turns collage into the expression of an existential struggle, ultimately reinserting the subject into the ruins of postmodernism.