Critics’ Picks

  • Eddy Smith, Der Mörder mit der Taube (The Murderer with a Dove), 1924, etching, 17 3/4 x 15 3/8".

    Eddy Smith, Der Mörder mit der Taube (The Murderer with a Dove), 1924, etching, 17 3/4 x 15 3/8".

    “The End of Expressionism”

    Galerie Jan Kaps
    Jülicher Straße 24A
    November 13, 2019–January 31, 2020

    The raw image of an ash heap in Sokol Beqiri’s photograph The End of Expressionism: Painted by a Madman, 2001, is clearly visible even from outside the gallery. The work is displayed on a central wall and serves as both an aesthetic statement and a challenge to the traditional frameworks of aesthetics. Upon closer observation, the abstracted mass reveals itself to be a horrific documentary image of human ashes, from civilians during the Kosovo War. If Beqiri’s choice of imagery questions and pushes the ethics of representation, it’s an apt starting point for an exhibition that brings together artistic positions from the front lines of a variety of cultural and historical vantages. Sokol’s picture echoes through Egyptian artist Anna Boghiguian’s nine-panel painting, Brain II, 2017, its canvas coarse in the style of Philip Guston’s works, while Japanese feminist artist Mako Idemitsu’s more understated but no less ferocious videos remind viewers of the battleground situated in the domestic realm of the family. In Great Mother (SACHIKO), 1984, Idemitsu masterfully deploys a technique in which a screen appears within a screen, to depict an abusive, drunken patriarch terrorizing his wife and daughter. The mother, framed within the television monitor in the video, witnesses the father raping their daughter.

    The most historical work in the exhibition is “Die Schwarze Mappe” (The Black File), 1924, a series of etchings by the German interwar artist Eddy Smith. Smith was a peripheral figure in Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), a formal tendency more than a movement, which emerged in the 1920s during the crushing aftermath of Expressionism-fueled enthusiasm and optimism following the First World War. A standout from the series is the breathtaking, delicately composed Der Mörder mit der Taube (The Murderer with a Dove), in which a Frankensteinian figure gently holds in his huge hands the white bird of peace. Peace has always been a vulnerable body in the hands of the militarization of civilian life.

    Translated from German by Diana Reese.