Critics’ Picks

View of “Georg Herold: wo man kind,” 2008.

Cologne

Georg Herold

Museum Ludwig, Cologne
Heinrich-Böll-Platz
October 27 - March 24

Georg Herold, one of the “bad boys” of 1980s German art, deploys an idiosyncratic blend of existential humor, text, and everyday materials (such as wooden slats and bricks) to question art and its context. Now, at the age of sixty, the Cologne-based artist presents a retrospective of his own design at Museum Ludwig’s DC project room. In a forty-foot-high hall, Herold has installed a survey of well-known pieces from the museum’s collection that unfolds on different levels and is viewable from both the floor of the exhibition space and a raised platform. The show includes There is nothing left—there is no right, 1992, originally exhibited at Documenta 9, paintings that contain bricks or caviar, new figurative sculptures, and a recent drawing series.

On the floor stand four towering, suggestive male and female figures constructed from slats, covered with canvas, and lacquered in bright colors; they pose in mannerist, sporty, or sexually provocative postures. Seemingly without a consistent physical relationship to the other objects displayed nearby, instead these figures are each equipped with a wooden pole. (A smaller fifth figure lies on the ground.) They transform the exhibition into a dynamic, gymlike situation, or a battlefield in which each competes for attention. Above this scenario (or at eye level, if one stands on the raised viewing platform) is a green frieze of forty-four framed pencil drawings. In these, Herold, like a cartoonist, sketches many more nude figures confronted with similar poles.

As indicated by the show’s title, “wo man kind,” which is a grammatically nonsensical play on words, the artist invites viewers to rethink the social status of man, woman, and child (kind), as well as the relationships between these concepts; the show functions like a stage on which such questions are effectively dramatized.