Critics’ Picks

Seifenblasen (Soap Bubbles), 2008, ink and acrylic on canvas, 110 1/4 x 82 5/8".

Berlin

Jan Muche

Galerie Michael Schultz | Berlin
Mommsenstrasse 34
April 2 - June 7

“Everything allowed—nothing required” is the motto of the most popular German swinger website, joyclub.de, which the young artist Jan Muche has used as the title of this exhibition. Muche is a painter who swings through recent art history. Although he is clearly influenced by stars from the preceding generation (Neo Rauch, Daniel Richter), he creates something all his own. Muche’s painting of a Bolle supermarket—one of which was burned on May 1 over twenty years ago, beginning a tradition of violent, supposedly revolutionary demonstrations—brings to mind Richter’s involvement in the Hamburg Hafenstrasse, which for years was a focal point of leftists in their struggle against real estate speculators and the state; it also, indeed especially, recalls Richter’s Gedion, 2002. Muche’s dialogue with Rauch is also apparent, not least in his matte palette and the selection of figures from modern life.

Muche, however, constructs his own pictorial world; trained as a typographer, he frequently modifies samples of both text and image. In Seifenblasen (Soap Bubbles), 2008, the title, painted in swooping pink letters, is sandwiched between the image of an astronaut and 1950s-era portraits of youths. Though the source of this image is unclear (indeed, Muche himself often cannot remember where the photos that form the genesis of his work originate), the theme of the bubble runs throughout this work: in the astronaut’s helmet, which takes the form of a black bubble, and in the youths, who evoke bubble gum and rock ’n’ roll. It is a deep and strong image; Muche can obviously hold his own in the bubble that is today’s art world.

Muche’s image of the burned-out Bolle supermarket originated in newspaper articles covering the twentieth anniversary of the arson (captions from those articles are also included in the painting). The fire never brought about the revolution that so many Berliners hoped for and, likewise, Muche does not revolutionize painting; his libido is strongly fixed on furthering it. But if he continues to “swing” as he does here, he will surely produce many more great images.