Critics’ Picks

Marlon Wobst, Roberta, 2020, felted wool, 94 x 57".

Marlon Wobst, Roberta, 2020, felted wool, 94 x 57".


Marlon Wobst

Sanderstrasse 28
March 6–April 25, 2020

“SPA” is the second exhibition at this gallery for which Marlon Wobst, usually a painter and ceramicist, has experimented with felted wool. The thick, hanging textiles are brightly colored, an effect of the difficulty of mixing hues during the felt-making process, as well as the limits of sourcing a range of colors from a wool wholesaler. Inspired by a felted pillowcase made by a friend’s sons in kindergarten, Wobst was taken with the painterly qualities of the medium and was driven to explore it further. These childhood origins belie the effort that goes into this practice, for, unlike Wobst’s other work, in which he often dilutes vibrancy with admixed shades of gray paint, the felted wool here is subject to its own logic. The material’s shape defies the constraints of an ordinary canvas, its edges charmingly crooked and undefined.

Embracing the very German pastime of Freikörperkultur (free body culture, or naturism), “SPA” presents people, alone or in small groups and often nude, engaging in the mundane activities of wellness culture—going for a dip, exfoliating, exercising. Its subjects are depicted in various contorted positions, whether active, as in Gewichtheberinnenturm (Weight Lifter Tower) (all works cited, 2020), or in a solitary, stooped state of repose, as in Nicole. One headless, naked figure unfolds a yoga mat or a towel (Roberta), while, in another canvas, a group of people are collectively bent forward in downward-facing dog. Some works push into the realm of the sexual, with bodies entwined, hands resting gently on genitalia (Reigen [Circle Dance]). Their intimacy, materials, and lack of definition add to the works’ home-crafted quality and marry well with the sedentary and uncertain times in which we find ourselves, while their subject matter encourages resistance to the logic of waged productivity.