Critics’ Picks

View of “on/off relations,” 2013–14.

View of “on/off relations,” 2013–14.


Philipp Fürhofer

Schmidt & Handrup | Cologne
Moltkestrasse 81
November 8, 2013–January 18, 2014

“On/off relations,” Philipp Fürhofer’s debut solo exhibition at this gallery, consists of eleven translucent Perspex boxes of varying dimensions, which the artist treats as supports for paint and as vitrines for displaying various objects. Resembling Minimalist sculptures turned neo-expressionist chimera, these cubic gestalts are wroth with the fracas of uneven drips and strata of paint. Some boxes are fitted with mirrors and items that are lit from behind, their silhouettes turning each painting into a platonic microverse of visual possibilities. Freischutz, 224 Watt (all works 2013), for example, displays broken lightbulbs, wooden frames, and multicolored markers and pencils, while Traumschloß Walhall houses cheap party regalia such as plastic champagne flutes, torn leis, and toy guns.

A scenographer for the stage, Fürhofer gives his artworks titles that allude to German opera; the works’ accumulations are pastiches of props that engender the farce and charade of the spectacular. Each thus takes on a crude, provisional quality, tottering between the seamless verisimilitude of operatic performance and the numerous unseen devices and labor contingencies that facilitate the fantasy from backstage. In Walkürenfelszauber, a gathering of incandescent lightbulbs shine through a cathectic curtain of umbral, seemingly metallurgic gray forms. Here, alchemy, not dramaturgical recitation, takes center stage through painting’s kaleidoscopic powers to conjure and evoke. Rheintochter, a freestanding, transparent column, becomes an illusive Cnidaria-Nymphaea hybrid as a heap of lightbulbs-as-bubbles––one of which blushes electric pink––appear to melt into a misty veil of cascading gray trickles. Beneath the fictive waterline, a white cord emerges in the guise of snarled tentacles that slither toward the nearest light-giving charge. Throughout the show, the cheapest and most prosaic of objects are disguised under thick layers of paint and a tenuous suspension of disbelief, bringing to mind two polemics: Does painting––like theater––disclose or obscure veracity; and, is to see as a viewer or audience member ever truly an act of passivity? Fürhofer’s multidimensional characters offer several cogent possibilities.