Critics’ Picks

Mathis Gasser, “Structures and Institutions 2,” 2019.

Mathis Gasser, “Structures and Institutions 2,” 2019.


Mathis Gasser

Ginerva Gambino
Kyffhäuserstr. 31
September 7–October 26, 2019

A great deal of art produced in recent years has attempted to address the destructive potential of finance capital, but rarely have the results gone beyond cheap polemic. The mechanisms and political implications of that world—and our entanglement in it—are difficult to grasp, much less illustrate, but the Swiss painter Mathis Gasser has found an indirect and striking strategy for approaching the subject. Noticing that spaceships have come into particular vogue in science-fiction films since the 2008 global financial crisis, he has reconstructed “Big Dumb Objects” (a term coined by the British writer Roz Kaveney to denote mysterious alien structures) to illustrate his thesis: that the collective unconscious’s anxiety—of the end of capitalism, the end of the world—has emerged in sublimated form as spaceships. Accordingly, the four paintings comprising this exhibition exclusively depict mother ships from the blockbuster screen. A canvas titled after three post–Lehman Brothers era films, Objects in the Sky (District 9 / Childhood’s End / The 5th Wave) (all works 2019), is an allegory or prophecy of humanity’s future, thrice depicting archetypal spacecrafts hovering above familiar land- and cityscapes. Another image, Elysium / Von Braun Rotating Space Station, presents a pair of aerodynamic interstellar transport vehicles, seemingly enamored of their detail and design. One (the title gives it away) is modeled after Neill Blomkamp’s film Elysium (2013), in which the human elite seek refuge after abandoning the doomed blue planet. The seemingly innocuous veneers of Gasser’s paintings seethe and function as much like chimeras as the ships themselves: The exterior always trumpets itself with ornamental design, which serves as both a distraction from and a clue to the monstrosities behind the surface.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.