Critics’ Picks

View of “Filialen” (Branches). Foreground: Untitled Forcefield, 2007, stainless steel and soft steel. Background, from left: Filialen #2, 2007, aluminum; Filialen #1, 2007, aluminum.


Nicole Wermers

Admiralitätstrasse 71
November 3–January 15

Nicole Wermers’s sculptures and collages engage with contradictions of contemporary life by juxtaposing the formal language of Minimalism with representations of objects from mass culture. This combination often entails a hefty dollop of glamour; stylization, adornment, and ornamentation enter into surprising alliances with a reduced visual grammar. The assertion of this work’s autonomy is likewise overlaid by its practical function. “French Junkies,” 2003, is one example: distributed throughout the exhibition space, this group of carefully styled, waist-high Minimalist sculptures can also be used as ashtrays.

In this exhibition, Wermers includes three series of sculptures. The five works titled “Filialen” (Branches), shown here for the first time, are flat, large-format aluminum wall reliefs with plantlike metallic ornamentation. Three additional works made this year, titled “Untitled Forcefields,” are space-dependent three-dimensional floor pieces. Two of these, both over six feet in height, are ring-shaped steel sculptures; two metal adaptors have been added to each, perhaps added to balance the round works and hint at the idea of a square. One’s perception of these works, which are nearly reduced to two-dimensional linearity, oscillates between the positive (sculpture) and the negative (a kind of passageway). The pieces are positioned at right angles to the wall, which one side of each work touches. A third piece, of similar height, is made of Plexiglas and stands freely in the exhibition space. Its transparent, right-angled form acts as a kind of gate; Wermers has filled if halfway with sand. The U shape created by this filling is dusted at both ends with fine violet pigment, adding a confusing moment of painterly artificiality to the natural material. In true Minimalist style, the works act as structural elements that link viewers to the space, charging the interaction with their subtle ornamentation. The name “Forcefields” introduces somewhat esoteric connotations but also makes reference to the more mundane functional “sculptures” used to prevent shoplifting from department stores. Wermers’s works transpose such images to create formal intensity predicated on their ability to denote the category “between.”

Translated from German by Jane Brodie.