Critics’ Picks

View of “Political/Minimal” 2008. From left: Monica Bonvicini, White, 2003; Terence Koh, Untitled, 2008.

Berlin

“Political/Minimal”

KW Institute for Contemporary Art
Auguststrasse 69
November 30 - January 25

The most interesting and rewarding work in this thirty-two piece exhibition of politically motivated Minimal art is the most elaborate and least specifically political. From across the gallery’s vast, open, and central exhibition space, Damien Hirst’s 2008 painting Har Megiddo (the Hebrew term for “Armageddon”) appears as a massive monochrome black circle. Up close, the circle’s encrusted surface reveals a myriad of dead flies. Their wings glisten and their corpses appear captivatingly complex, while the overpowering stench lingers in viewers’ nostrils as they recoil toward the next work. Without any wall-text commentary or context, Hirst’s work smites the viewer on multiple levels as a powerful, dire portent, but it does not provoke political activism as much as it summons a heightened awareness of our universal frailty and responsibilities toward one another. Too much of the work in this exhibition embraces didactics and rests heavily on subsidiary explanations. However, a substantial portion of the show is successful at prodding viewers to reexamine familiar symbols and their own agency. For example, Corey McCorkle’s An Arrangement (Phalax), 2007, is a triangular installation whose mirrored walls multiply the viewer’s reflection, creating the illusion of multiplicity for anyone worried that their voice, vote, or concerns are insignificant. With even greater conceptual restraint, Monica Bonvicini’s shattered glass vitrine, with a basic fluorescent bulb hanging almost at its mouth, purely and poetically illuminates fragility when faced with inarticulate and brute force, as well as the enduring strength of artistic statements.