Critics’ Picks

KP Brehmer, Farbengeographie 7, Lokalisierung von Rotwerten (Color Geography 7: Location of Shades of Red), 1972–73, paint and pastel on melamine, 86 x 47".

London

KP Brehmer

Raven Row
56 Artillery Lane
September 25 - November 30

“Reality changes,” Bertolt Brecht once said, and “in order to represent it, modes of representation must also change.” K. P. Brehmer’s exhibition thinks through two opposed terms in the history of art: realism and abstraction. Brehmer deploys the tools of bureaucracy—maps, graphs, indexes—in order to survey the effects of capitalism on everyday life. In the enlarged chart, Seele und Gefühl eines Arbeiters (Soul and Feelings of a Worker), 1975, an undulating grid registers the day-to-day emotions and drudgery associated with work. Predictably, in Brehmer’s Cold War world, feeling “neutral” or “neutral plus” prevails over “happy” or “hopeful.”

Realkapital—Produktion (Real Capital—Production), 1974, displays three painted graphs charting the fickle state of corporate profits. The swirl of sinuous lines, painted on self-adhesive film on top of melamine, is viscous and aggressive—specifics are lost in transcription. Similar to the undated Schuldentilgung der öeffentlichen Hand (Bailout of the Public Sector), Brehmer’s graph appears irrational and crisis prone. The graphs are not crafted to display information per se, but a general attitude towards the economy. Understanding falters, and so it should. In a détourned topographical map, Farbengeographie 7, Lokalisierung von Rotwerten (Color Geography 7: Location of Shades of Red), 1972–73, Vietnam is visualized as as blood stains. The challenge of this work, however, is that an altered topology does not operate in the same way as a cognitive map, whose form is less symbolic and schematic. When abstraction merges with realism, instead of allegory, the results are demanding rather than diagrammatic.