Critics’ Picks

Rocco Pagel, Der Gärtner (The Gardener), 2011, oil paint and tempera on canvas, 59 x 45”.


Rocco Pagel

Galerie Dorothea Schlueter
Schäferstrasse 26
December 2–January 14

Rocco Pagel’s latest work affords itself a slightly old-fashioned inflection––one closely connected to its radicality, which insists on the beauty of its subject. In “Belle Poule” the Berlin-based painter presents views of nature. Landscape appears in wide expanses and is often dissolved in color, almost to the point of disappearing, while his subjects––plants, trees, groves, but also seascapes with cloudy or clear broad skies––seem as though they are washed in light. Yet Pagel is also charmed by the gradual absence of luminosity; the atmospheres in his new paintings are not always soaked in brightness, but rather unfold in diffuse, broken moods. Blaue Stunde im Schlossgarten (Blue Hour in the Castle Garden, all works 2011), for instance, is a large-format canvas showing a landscape in a thick, polyvalent blue in which both fading light and natural space can hardly be separated. Here, we see a garden as dusky intimation, wherein the visibly dwindling light is plumbed and savored. A similar effect is found in a smaller piece titled Dämmerung am Felsrand (Dusk on the Edge of a Cliff). By partially covering the surfaces of some of the works here with scratchings, Pagel sharpens tensions between illusionism and the concrete materiality of the medium. Other works are constructed in a rhythmic stratum of warm yellow and ocher tones, such as Der Gärtner (The Gardener), and its smaller pendant piece, in which leaflike brown-orange is pierced with sky blue.

All of the works refer to Pagel’s sojourn in France: In an old Park near Fréjus, he painted with watercolors en plein air. While some of those pieces are here, other paintings on canvas with tempera and oil were created in his studio later, thus condensing the aspect of memory even more. Throughout this show, Pagel works on the classical idea of locus amoenus, a fictive nature, which his paintings mirror and integrate.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.