Critics’ Picks

Galerie Crone Vienna, View of “Elfie Semotan and Michel Würthle,” 2017.


Elfie Semotan and Michel Würthle

Gabriele Senn Galerie
Schleifmühlgasse 1A
June 23–September 2

Galerie Crone | Wien
Getreidemarkt 14 Entry on Eschenbachgasse
June 23–September 2

Spread between two venues, this dual exhibition is an exercise in dialogue and friendship between two artists who have known each other for decades. It is also an experiment in installation. While the presentation at Gabriele Senn Galerie is classical and precise, in effect staging Elfie Semotan’s and Michel Würthle’s work as two solo shows on separate floors, the exhibition at Galerie Crone has a much freer hanging, with Semotan’s and Würthle’s pieces cohabiting on the same walls. These starkly different approaches delightfully complement each other, creating a rich and coherent whole.

Semotan’s photographs of forests (all untitled, 2013–17) feel anonymous and slightly claustrophobic, as the compositions give very little depth or expansion to the images. Capturing details of shrubs and trees, they are somewhat unsettling yet strangely beautiful in their seeming muteness. However, when viewed as a sequence, these pictures acquire a temporal, cinematic quality. The granular texture of the photographs, caused by the high-quality Japanese paper they are printed on, emphasizes their filmic character.

Cinema is also essential to the works by Würthle. His ink drawings and collages liberally appropriate imagery from Western filmic genres with self-conscious humor. Shown in his native Vienna, his depictions of Americana are in fact deeply personal: They revisit his youth, when American Western films offered teenagers a much-needed reprieve from the stifling culture of postwar Austria. Moreover, these works acknowledge how important the American avant-garde, and the debates it triggered, was to Würthle and his peers in their formative years in the 1960s. The homage central to this series, in effect, brings the audience back to the notion of dialogue and friendship central to the conception of this exhibition.