Critics’ Picks

View of “In Times Like These,” 2020.

View of “In Times Like These,” 2020.


Otto Zitko

Galerie Crone | Berlin
Fasanenstraße 29
September 9–October 24, 2020

For an artist whose bright oil stick lines often explode, uncontained, across the walls and ceilings of galleries, it feels fitting for this moment—one of physical distance, meditation, and uncertainty—that the works in Otto Zitko’s exhibition “In Times Like These” are anxiously restrained to canvas size, as well as comprising the artist’s first forays into painting with white. In another departure, Zitko has introduced figurative elements: See “Oh Death, that is the cooling night...” (Heinrich Heine), 2020, a simple rendering of a wide-open eye staring back at us, and Fenstergucker (Selbstportrait) (Window Viewer [Self-Portrait]), 2000–2020, for which the artist has swirled his familiar loose-wristed lines into furrowed brows, searching eyes, and pursed lips. The foreboding expression is made more urgent by the black hole encircling his head, bleeding outward until it bumps against simple vertical and horizontal lines: a frame-within-a-frame. The dual effect suggests an unending expanse that is simultaneously claustrophobic; a nod, perhaps, to our collective pathos.

In the show’s centerpiece, a large Untitled painting, two golden forms, almost symmetrical, face one another across an unbridgeable gulf of white. This massive work, stretching high and below the viewer, is spare but radiant, impossibly joyful; life spinning through curlicued lines. How wonderful it would be, it is hard not to think, to see these figures touch; to reunite, glowing, across this wide divide. Such a quality is the ruling mood of Zitko’s exuberant strokes, arcing across the void: a sense of childlike, sensory wonder, underpinned by inarticulable longing.