Critics’ Picks

View of “Henning Bohl,” 2008.

Oldenburg

Henning Bohl

Oldenburger Kunstverein
Damm 2a
November 7 - January 11

Berlin-based artist Henning Bohl’s first solo exhibition at this institution celebrates the theatricality of the image. The artist’s work, and the manner in which it is installed, seem explicitly, appropriately, in the realm of the dramaturgical. In recent years, Bohl has developed a style of minimalist abstraction that wears its ornamental nature on its sleeve: He both exposes and decorates the image’s most basic element—its plain surface. Bohl regards images as loci of performance, and hence he transforms both the canvas and the exhibition space into a stage. Exotic aesthetic references pervade the work, including Aubrey Beardsley’s Japanese fetishism, social-reform projects, and the work of women Bauhaus artists such as Sophie Täuber-Arp, Anni Albers, and Sonia Delaunay. Bohl plumbs early modernist works, exploiting their decorative potential. With panache, he so successfully integrates these references into his own formal vocabulary that one could imagine the aforementioned artists more as colleagues than as predecessors. Nonetheless, this exhibition also demonstrates the extent to which Bohl has crafted an autonomous iconography. In the works on view here, the artist has pasted colored pieces of cut paper onto large canvases, forming droplets, tears, and circular and crescent-shaped forms, abstractions based on the masklike makeup of Kabuki actors. Bohl uses only found materials, limiting him to the palettes of industrially produced decorative paper and a finite selection of shapes. The material retains its original character in these works; large pieces of paper are creased or rolled up at the edges, creating a relief effect, as if the image continued beyond the confines of the frame. Several works are hung at intervals to divide the space, blocking sight lines or passages. The exhibition itself becomes an image—or a stage on which to walk.