Critics’ Picks

View of “Michael Krebber,” 2017.

View of “Michael Krebber,” 2017.


Michael Krebber

Kunsthalle Bern
Helvetiaplatz 1
February 18–April 30, 2017

Over the course of his three-decade career, Michael Krebber has successfully adopted postures of refusal that render him an almost Bartleby-esque figure at times. Nonetheless, his current midcareer retrospective in Bern dispenses with these strategies and allows viewers a comprehensive overview of his work.

Even though several installations are on display in this show, titled “The Living Wedge,” Krebber insists upon the painting component of his practice and succeeds in bringing attention to his canvases. The logic of seriality, which, more than anything else, characterizes Krebber’s method in recent years, rears its head very sporadically: Only “Flaggs (Against Nature),” 2003, and the opal-green images from MK/M 2014/15, 2014, are represented in any sort of sequential glory. Meanwhile, works from his canonical blog entries from 2011 are completely absent, as is the untitled series referring to his programmatic lecture “Puberty in Painting” from 2007—perhaps because the sociological questions they raise overshadow a set of distilled, painterly concerns meant to be the show’s focus.

Nonetheless, even Krebber the painter, as this exhibition would present him, ends up positioning himself within a multidimensional art system, seeming to pay homage to Sigmar Polke’s concept of the image and to internalize some version of Martin Kippenberger’s humorous variability of style. And yet the presence of his predecessors in his own work seems to embarrass him; his painterly gestures appear to be ashamed, furtive allusions. “Unfinished too soon” was how John Kelsey once described the laying down of half-references. Kelsey’s words nicely capture the fact that instead of images, Krebber paints an approach.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.