Critics’ Picks

  • Monika Maurer-Morgenstern, Es brennt (Fire), 1976, watercolor on paper, 7 x 5".

    Monika Maurer-Morgenstern, Es brennt (Fire), 1976, watercolor on paper, 7 x 5".

    Monika Maurer-Morgenstern

    Weiss Berlin
    Bundesallee 221 2nd Floor
    February 22–April 18, 2020

    Sometimes you just need to have a quiet word with yourself. German artist Monika Maurer-Morgenstern’s works conjure such a psychological space: a many-colored penetrating self-dialogue, by turns calming and castigating. In her works on paper in pencil, crayon, pastel, and watercolor, from the 1970s to the present, Maurer-Morgenstern—who was formerly referred to as an outsider artist—suggests power plays within the self.

    Wein doch nicht (Don’t Cry), 1997, sees a scarlet apparition looming angrily over a cowering, wide-eyed figure, wild scribbles propelling outward from their chest, anxiety made palpable. In capital letters are the words: “Doch nicht gesicht” (No face). Indeed, how to face one’s self? Heads split into two and converse with each other in the Klee-influenced Erwartung (Expectation), 2014, while the more recent Wollen Sie Mediatisiert Sein? (Do You Want to Be Mediatized?), 2019, compresses and internalizes the double, as a pair of arms become hooked, entangled.

    Escaping from the German Democratic Republic to West Germany in 1958, Maurer-Morgenstern found teaching jobs to support her family and painted at night, at the kitchen table, while her children slept. And, in the 1980s, while Germany’s Neue Wilde generation of male painters was being celebrated for reigniting figurative art, Maurer-Morgenstern was working her inner antenna, mining experiences of love, anger, and sadness. Her style, both childlike and brutal in its naïveté, sometimes spills into Chagall-like dreaminess, best exemplified by some of the show’s strongest offerings from the late 1970s. In the watercolor Es brennt (Fire), 1976, a collapsed woman sinks into her soporific garden, merging with the dappled green grass as her house burns under the stars.