Ed Clark

Weiss Berlin
Bundesallee 221, 2nd Floor
September 3–October 14

Ed Clark, Rainbow, 2003, acrylic on canvas, 72 x 58".

Maybe you’ve heard of Ed Clark, but even if you haven’t, you’re in for a treat with this exhibition. Though a part of the Abstract Expressionist movement of the 1950s and an early adopter of working with shaped canvases, Clark—who was born in Louisiana in 1926 and grew up in Chicago—has retained a relatively low profile, only recently receiving a solo show at the Art Institute of Chicago, in 2013. Here, he presents paintings made between 1978 and 2013: large-scale canvases of brightly colored acrylics, fluid and forceful, as well as smaller pieces on paper of acrylic and dried pigment, which hum with a quieter energy.

From someone who is now in his nineties, the exhibition’s nine works are undeniably sensual and sexy. In Rainbow, 2003, veins of magenta bleed into a luminous curving arc of bubblegum pink, beneath which gradated layers of green range from pale apple into shocking lime. While these layers jostle on the canvas, they also resonate somewhere in your gut with visceral impact—pleasurable, if not almost a little too intense. A crusted buildup of paint on the right-hand side speaks to Clark’s technique: He allows select areas of textured matter to dry before pouring liquid pigments over the surface and then sweeping it with a broom in a controlled but fast gesture. The result is a rainbow-shaped manifestation of pace and power.

His passion for color stems from his days in Paris, where he studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière from 1952 to 1953, on a GI stipend. Indeed, in a 2011 interview with his friend the painter Jack Whitten he emphasized: “There’s something about France—the angle of the sun or something . . . It gets into your unconscious a little bit.” As does Ed Clark.

Louisa Elderton

Andrea Crespo

Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler
Kohlfurter Straße 41/43
September 15–October 14

Andrea Crespo, Anxiety Curve, 2017, cut vinyl, 7 1/2' x 11'.

It’s out of the Mitte office block and into a Kreuzberg backyard for this gallery, which is inaugurating its new space with works by Andrea Crespo. The artist’s second solo exhibition in Berlin is a character study of Alan, a fictional young autistic male whose interests include World War II, airplanes, and Sonic the Hedgehog. Small, simple graphite drawings wrap the first room in his images of militarized middle America, complete with bullet-riddled road signs and burning planes.

[intensifies], 2016, the hour-long animated video that gives the show its name, takes an intimate dive into Alan’s perspective as he hits puberty, his interior monologue appearing in subtitles over paint-by-numbers tableaux of locations such as a school cafeteria or a therapist’s couch. Professional and amateur opinions on his autism abound—he is suspected to be violent, a school shooter (which he’s considered, but he “just doesn’t have it in him”). Nevertheless, Alan self-identifies as an alien, a computer, “mutated.” “The more I am tested, the more I become aware,” he says. The video can be watched from one of several bright-hued chairs, whose colors are each linked to a particular level of anxiety indicated by the site-specific wall vinyl Anxiety Curve, 2017.

People with autism are often treated as a type, with a lack of empathy that makes them dangerously, inhumanely reliant on the abstract over the personal—the sort of negative stereotypes reflected in the gallery’s much-discussed “Liquid Autist” show in 2013. Crespo, by contrast, insists on taking an emotional, intimate approach to the subject, questioning how otherness is constructed for those living with this much-misunderstood diagnosis.

Josie Thaddeus-Johns

Lucian Freud

Martin-Gropius-Bau
Niederkirchnerstraße 7
July 22–October 22

Lucian Freud, Head and Shoulders of a Girl, 1990, etching on paper, 31 x 25".

Throughout his long career, the painter Lucian Freud rarely experimented with other media. Among the chosen few was printmaking, but even that was limited to etchings. The current exhibition is devoted to this side of Freud, presenting fifty-one prints, plus three paintings, produced over a span of twenty-seven years.

Even in this seemingly incompatible medium—his etchings, after all, are composed wholly of lines, whereas oil painting allows one to work with viscous areas of color—the figurative essence of Freud’s style is conveyed. Some of the prints are quite demented—A Couple, 1982, depicts a middle-aged pair with their faces stuck together in smiles so wide they verge on the wicked. Little details, such as the curly scribbles conveying the texture on the woman’s blouse, serve as the identifying features of the painterly hand animating these linear compositions. Head and Shoulders, 1982, is maybe the clearest example of the artist’s playful way with line and patterns.

Of course there’s no reason to focus solely on these formal elements. The vast majority flock to Freud for his rawness of humanity, of which there is plenty in the compulsory section dedicated to nudes, where we find renderings of many of the artist’s favored models, such as Sue Tilley. Then there are the profound character studies, including A Conversation, 1998, depicting a daughter elevating a half-smoked cigarette above her shoulder while her mother grips a cup of tea, leaning over as if she were digesting the words that have just pierced the smoke. Keyed in to all the nuances of life, Freud could bring it out of whatever he puts his hands to.

Travis Jeppesen

Michel Majerus

Michel Majerus Estate
Knaackstraße 12
April 28–March 3

Michel Majerus, 10 bears masturbating in 10 boxes, 1992, acrylic on cotton, 9 1/2 x 18'.

The title of this exhibition, “Laboratory for appraising the apparent”—the first of a three-part show at the artist’s former studio space—is appropriated from a quote Michel Majerus once wrote down in a notebook. The phrase simultaneously mirrors the credo of his early work from 1990 through 1995, presented here, and his estate’s mission of an archival reappraisal for the public. An arrangement of books taken from Majerus’s library is installed next to the entrance, appearing like an overview of the artist’s favored sources, including Vogue and Nintendo magazines, a publication on architect Kisho Kurokawa, and textbooks on typography. A distillation of these materials can be traced in the reproductions of thirteen of his small notebooks, neatly labeled with year and month, each containing a cryptic selection of his own aphorisms.

On a wall hangs a giant painting with cartoonish, baffled-looking bears sitting in Chio Chips or Kellogg’s boxes for 10 bears masturbating in 10 boxes, 1992. They are partly covered and outlined with tumultuous curvy strokes in red or blackened turquoise color fields. Slipshod, comic-style lettering underneath displays the title. Referencing Andy Warhol’s commercial phantoms and cribbing the gestural force of a Willem de Kooning not only epitomizes Majerus’s blunt jockeying for a position next to canonical figures and works, but furthermore evinces his obsession with the transformative potential of blending high and low images: an in-your-face remix of signs caught in constant flux.

Bringing to mind Wittgenstein’s reading of the duck-rabbit illusion in Philosophical Investigations (1953), the artist’s fragile surfaces conceal and reveal more than what is initially apparent, or as he scribbled in one of his notebooks: “As soon as someone has sussed out my logic + my system, it’s up to me to point this logic in a direction that contradicts itself so that it can’t become doctrine.”

Elisa R. Linn

Wu Tsang

Kunsthalle Münster
Hafenweg 28
May 27–October 1

Wu Tsang and Fred Moten, We hold where study, 2017, two-channel HD video, color, sound, 18 minutes 56 seconds.

“How to create a situation in which study can feel like something—the tactile sense of something going on”: Wu Tsang and Fred Moten pose this question in Who Touched Me?, (2016) a publication that developed out of their residency at If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want To Be Part of Your Revolution, Amsterdam. No matter how obscure the phrasing might be, this query forms the basis of their ongoing artistic collaboration, including their joint works Gravitational Feel, 2016, and We hold where study, 2017, which both cast tactility as a mode of intellectual, artistic, and even poetic production.

At Kunsthalle Münster, in front of Gravitational Feel’s shimmering column-like curtains of fabric knots in gold, navy, turquoise, and white, the two-channel We hold where study presents five chapters of “entanglements,” where two bodies on each side of the screen (except in the first chapter) engage in nonrepresentational yet emotive dance out in a field and in a studio. These chapters are menacingly titled after contemporary phenomena (often related to mass production and consumption), such as “The Assembly Line” and “The Algorithm.” In “The Consultant,” dancers appear to simulate ever-fluctuating financial indices rising and falling, and they do so with a curiously smooth chain of swift, staccato movements, which could well be mistaken for an unknown folkloric dance from the Caucasus. This flightiness yields itself to a palpable evocation of internal pressure in “The Socioecological Disaster”: On the left, two figures attempt to keep their heads touching as they simultaneously move together and push each other away—an involuntary haptic bond, a metaphor for our boundedness in fate.

Gökcan Demirkazik