Critics’ Picks

D’Ette Nogle, Schrank #1, 2020, acrylic on canvas, 19 3/4 x 22 5/8".

D’Ette Nogle, Schrank #1, 2020, acrylic on canvas, 19 3/4 x 22 5/8".

Berlin

D’Ette Nogle

Sweetwater, Berlin
Kottbusser Damm 7 3rd Floor
September 9–October 24, 2020

For her Berlin debut, American artist D’Ette Nogle takes Sigmar Polke’s 1963 painting Schrank (Wardrobe) as inspiration and title, developing his one line and two keyholes into a three-room presentation that probes the tragicomic ways meaning accumulates and dissipates when we look at art.

The exhibition’s centerpiece is a two-hour long video called materialschrank, 2020, composed entirely of found imagery and overlaid with deadpan narration from various characters. Nogle plays all of them and proves as deft a performer as she is a teacher. Like the best art, materialschrank both alerts viewers to new connections between monolithic appearances and reality, and derails us to a point where reason seems to falter. In a passage that links a magenta-inflected Polke painting of a woman in a bikini to sunburns, to radiation, to a 15-megaton nuclear test on Bikini Atoll that inflicted generations of damage, to a 600,000-person protest in Berlin, Nogle takes no content as too holy and claims the act of interpretation as one of creation. This is an empowering move, and as Nogle continually, freely associates the work of others—summoning James Baldwin, John Baldessari, Mark Fisher, Fugazi, and plenty of Polke along the way—she neither merely transmits nor riffs.

Instead, through a masterfully original magpie style and blend of ambivalence and candor, Nogle mines and multiplies what a patriarchal, late-capitalist society would have as a single image, persona, and history, rendering it all more complex and uncertain.