Critics’ Picks

View of “Reinhard Mucha, Frankfurter Block,” 2014.

Berlin

Reinhard Mucha

Sprüth Magers | Berlin
Oranienburger Straße 18
May 2 - August 30

The centerpiece of Reinhard Mucha’s solo show at Sprüth Magers is the installation Frankfurter Block [2014], 2012, so named because it first appeared at Frankfurt’s Galerie Grässlin, where it occupied a space that has been loosely recreated for the current Berlin iteration. This embedding of a work’s exhibition history within that work itself, such that the two become inseparable, is characteristic of Mucha’s oeuvre, which is often obtuse and self-referential. The eleven works in the show, some of which date as far back as 1981, feel like clues or bits of a narrative that, by design, never quite coalesce into anything concrete and knowable. What exactly is a viewer to make of vitrines filled with thick, sealed envelopes addressed to the artist himself? Or walls of framed photocopied coupons? Or any of a number of oblique nods to fellow Düsseldorfer Joseph Beuys, including a rolled felt blanket, Braunkreuz-like smears of paint in a set of drawings, the use of the vitrine as a framing device, and the application of the term “Block” to describe the complex of assembled works?

If it all sounds a little dry, it is. But the heady Conceptualism of Mucha’s enigmatic self-construction in Frankfurter Block is balanced by the formal intrigue of his familiar wall-mounted sculptures, which appear in the installation as well as in the adjacent gallery. Titled after provincial German towns, the sculptures, all dating between 2007 and 2014, are hulking glass-faced assemblages of recycled industrial material and pieces of furniture. The layers of each work have a specific history and subtly allude, as some have noted, to various aspects of Germany’s traumatic past. But considered on their own, freed of the weight of press release detail, they are equally compelling as masterful studies in surface, depth, texture, composition, and ultimately, gestalt.