Critics’ Picks

  • Niclas Riepshoff, A Stitch in Time, 2021, cardboard, fabric, polyester fleece, wax, cast aluminum, 54 3/4 × 46 1/2 × 39 1/2".

    Niclas Riepshoff, A Stitch in Time, 2021, cardboard, fabric, polyester fleece, wax, cast aluminum, 54 3/4 × 46 1/2 × 39 1/2".

    Hamburg

    Niclas Riepshoff

    14a
    Poolstrasse 34
    November 25, 2021–January 22, 2022

    A point, a punch line, and a moment of dark ambivalence collide in Niclas Riepshoff’s A Stitch in Time (all works 2021). The cartoonish sculpture depicts an elderly lady with a boy over her knee. An enormous silver needle in hand, she appears to mend his pants right on his arched bottom. The object is a drastically enlarged, exaggerated replica of a kitschy decorative figurine, one in a series of similar genre scenes. Inside the cutesiness looms an abyss of repression. Is this grandmotherly care or authoritarian violation? By scaling up the scene, Riepshoff’s adaptation amplifies its menace as well as its comedy, while toying with its material properties: The patch about to be sewn to the seat of the boy’s pants—the ensemble’s narrative pivot—proliferates as an allover surface treatment, covering the sculpture in countless fabric swatches, each individually hemmed by the artist and his own sewing circle in a choreography of care.

    Surrounding this patchwork of solicitous submission is a series of pictorial reliefs cast from aluminum. With their odd, nooselike appendices, these circular or, in some instances, heart-shaped objects may seem like a peculiar aesthetic choice, but anyone who has learned to sew will recognize them as oversize needle threaders. They double as portraits of Riepshoff’s teachers: the patron saints, as it were, of his development. The artist produced the plaster models for the sand-cast pieces strictly from memory. Some faces remain blurry, like that of the elementary-school teacher in Threader III, while others—like those of his Hamburg professors Jutta Koether and Andreas Slominski in Threaders II and IV, respectively—are more immediately recognizable. All sitters are armed with needles and thread. In Riepshoff’s grotesque, education is an act akin to stitching the fabric of an individual; it comes with the risk of a prick.

    Translated from German by Gerrit Jackson.