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Cindy Sherman

Sprüth Magers | Berlin
Oranienburger Straße 18
January 27, 2017–April 8, 2017

Cindy Sherman, Untitled #576, 2016, dye sublimation metal print, 49 x 43".

In her sixteenth solo exhibition with the gallery, Cindy Sherman presents twenty large-scale self-portraits that evoke cinematic portrayals of women tortured by aging while demonstrating how women once wore their age with elegance, confidence, and chutzpah.

The artist is known for spotlighting the limited options available to women via her personification of female stereotypes. Her work is poignant because it seems simultaneously intimate and generalized in its exploration of how identity can cause profound anxiety. Aging and society’s scorn for older women has become the artist’s principal topic since 2008, and the anachronistic styling in this current series, from 2016, draws attention to society’s lack of progress in its perception of mature women. The world surrounding the subjects in these photos is unstable, with Sherman mostly shown posed against ominous and discordant, blurry backgrounds. The fuzzy silhouettes of Manhattan’s skyline or hazy, lush gardens appear out of focus, projected on screens behind her, but heavy makeup and sensual costumes made of sequins, velvet, beads, and silk appear in high-definition. To undercut some of her characters’ attempts at masking their age with cosmetics or girlish poses, like the seasoned starlet in Untitled #570 who sports ringlets and an imploring smile, the artist directs attention to timeworn hands with eye-grabbing costume jewelry and manicures.

In Untitled #576, Sherman wears baby-pink leather opera gloves and a pink shearling wrap. Yet her reserved expression and proper demeanor in front of a snowy backdrop reminds one of elegant, polished ladies. By honing her focus on such a constrictive subject, the artist demonstrates how women both internalize and transcend society’s judgment.

Ana Finel Honigman

Camilla Steinum

Soy Capitán
Prinzessinnenstraße 29
February 11, 2017–April 8, 2017

Camilla Steinum, Determined Nap, 2017, wool and metal, 50 x 72 x 79".

Art and its benefactors have long been backed by the labor of working-class people—from those who produce canvases and pigments to those who schlep crates packed with million-dollar paintings. In her exhibition “In Spite of Chores,” Camilla Steinum focuses on such unseen domestic toil. Her show is a dream space made from painting and sculpture in which these laboring bodies merge like phantasms into the works themselves.

Over three metal structures approximating jagged table frames the artist has draped paintings made from household carpets. Within each, bodies and stars are described through drawing, collage, and staining. Given their presentation, though, the carpets offer only partial views of each painting’s figure. In Determined Nap (all works 2017), a peach-colored leg rises past its avocado-green counterpart against a mottled blue background. As reds, lavenders, and yellows abut and bleed into one another, the effect is of tie-dye colluding with figurative painting and industrial textile production. While her materials are immanently sensuous, Steinum reminds us that the show is a fictive space, reliant on the stories and mythologies of art, by way of a small abstracted book made of folded metal attached to a single table leg in Discontent Slumber.

Three bronze-cast carpet beaters (all titled Beater) brandish enigmatic fetish power, flickering between the blunt reality of household drudgery and the easy sensuality of flowers. In so carefully calibrating her lexicon of textures, motifs, and colors, the artist has constructed an uncanny theater of objects. Here, a rethinking of lofty pleasure’s relationship to humble labor seems to move through our own implicated bodies.

Mitch Speed

“An Ear, Severed, Listens”

Ritterstrasse 2A
February 18, 2017–April 8, 2017

Kasia Fudakowski, Identititisch, 2013, wood veneer, mutiplex, steel, linen, sand, 2 5/8 x 9 1/2 x 5 1/8'.

In the gallery’s first exhibition since the partnering of Jennifer Chert and Florian Lüdde, this poetic and comedic show reflects on the human body. Featuring work by ten artists, “An Ear, Severed, Listens” also smartly takes into account the viewer’s physical experience in an unorthodox space that includes a small attic room and a basement accessed via a steep ladder.

A standout work on the ground floor is Kasia Fudakowski’s Identititisch, 2013, consisting of two long wooden strips on tall legs with rollers. The surfaces are inlaid with knots and burls from various other wood pieces and arranged to resemble facial features, while the perpendicular tables can be slid up and down to form different combinations, as if making a game of the notion of a fixed identity. Along the lines of this theme of shape-shifting and ambiguity, Emma Hart’s “The Private Eyes” series, 2014, aligns three minimal wall-mounted figures holding clipboards, the contents of which can only be glimpsed in mirror finish eyes above. To see this work, one has to pass through two curtains by Zora Mann (Cosmophagy, 2015) made of recycled plastic flip-flops strung together in the pattern of an eye.

The tips of three giant ceramic fingers with brightly lacquered nails jut from the floor in the attic. This installation by Vanessa Safavi, “Reasons and Disguises,” 2016, is surrounded on all sides by Petrit Halilaj and Alvaro Urbano’s wallpaper installation featuring the same tiny sketch on repeat: a two-ended penis with legs running in opposite directions. Rather than undermining earnest engagement with the works, this single joke, with the somewhat grandiose title The Selfie and the Self, 2016, offers a brief moment of levity that leaves gravity to the rest.

Elvia Wilk

Chto Delat

Brunnenstrasse 9
February 18, 2017–April 9, 2017

View of “Chto Delat: On the Possibility of Light,” 2017. At left: Performance Practices of Our Time, 2017.

Lighthouse (It Is Getting Darker), 2017, is a large wooden lighthouse from which, rather than light, brown banners protrude like cotton rays. The structure connects to a series of small hollow figures, The Memorials for Weak Light, 2017, each lit up from within in commemoration of individuals who died as a result of ongoing struggles against fascism across the world. This exhibition by Chto Delat, a Russian collective of academics, activists, and writers whose name translates to “What should be done,” seems to answer their namesake question with this simple metaphor: Stare into the darkness, and you will find the light.

The main work on view, It Hasn’t Happened to Us Yet. Safe Haven, 2016, is a video shot at a Norwegian residency for artists at risk of censorship or persecution in their home countries. Though fictional, it features the actual inhabitants of the island location and explores what constitutes safe and unsafe spaces in a global political climate where the boundary between the two is increasingly unstable. Here, the lighthouse reappears as a symbol of both rescue and danger, with the resident artists telling their stories from the top of a tower and shouting into the fog for boats to remain in obscurity until light returns, to avoid crashing into the shore.

The last room of the show is covered in inexpensive digital prints plastered onto the walls, like in a teenage bedroom. This installation, Performative Practices of Our Time, 2017, immerses the viewer in an eclectic mix of images from Christian Orthodox–themed nail art and absurd internet memes to a Russian missile launching into Syria. The display is funny, disgusting, and genuinely disturbing––a dark, grim portrait of our contemporary moment which we must first get to know intimately before we can do anything to change it.

Kristian Vistrup Madsen

Alfredo Jaar

Galerie Thomas Schulte
Charlottenstrasse 24
February 11, 2017–April 15, 2017

Alfredo Jaar, Shadows, 2014, video projection with LED lights, aluminum, 9 1/2 x 14 1/2'. Installation view.

In a constant flood of images, the impact of a single picture, however severe, is often immediately overridden. In his installation Shadows, 2014, Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar challenges this tendency by taking one image and letting it dominate a space with the intensity of a feeling, or a beating heart. He chose a photograph by Dutch photojournalist Koen Wessing taken in 1978 in Nicaragua, where, after forty-one years, the US-allied military dictatorship in the country was coming to an end. In the final violent convulsions of the regime, Wessing’s lens captured two women whose father had just been killed by authorities, their arms in the air in an almost sculptural gesture—this is the image of absolute despair. The exhibition first presents six backlit photographs, also by Wessing, that chronicle the course of events before and after this moment, before leading visitors into a dark, enclosed space with just this frame displayed. Projected onto an entire back wall, it slowly fades to black while the silhouette of the two women is concurrently illuminated from behind, to the point where its brightness becomes blinding.

In a conversation with Dutch filmmaker Kees Hin, screened in another room, Wessing describes the event: legs and hands trembling, defaulting to basic instincts, and then, moved by intuition, the sound of the shutter. The physical experience of the viewer in this show mirrors Wessing’s own as he took the picture; a testament to the power of images and their material, bodily consequences. If Jaar’s goal is to make us understand something about a certain time and conflict, it is also to stress that understanding must be grounded in both physical and intellectual comprehension. But the work does not elaborate on what kind of action should spring from such insight. Rather, it leaves us, quite simply, struck.

Kristian Vistrup Madsen

Émilie Pitoiset

Prinzessinnenstr. 29
March 11, 2017–April 22, 2017

Émilie Pitoiset, Kaa, 2017, leather glove, clay, aluminium shelf, 19 x 9 x 7".

Émilie Pitoiset’s exhibition hyperbolizes the truism that deciding what to keep out of art is as important as deciding what to put in. Here, absence becomes protagonist. To this end, the French artist has combined ready-made objects—namely a series of finely crafted and richly colored leather gloves—with diminutive sculptures to make mise-en-scčnes. The seven gloves—with titles such as The BCBG and Kaa, both 2016–17—come to exceed their cool bourgeois pretensions, betraying a range of subtle personality traits.

Their posture produces this effect: The gloves clench fists, lie flat, grasp metal shelves, and hold trinkets aloft. Meanwhile, other works layer the scene with a tragicomic aura. In Debate, 2017, for example, a constellation of ceramic cigarette butts has been scattered across a vintage leather couch. There’s a distinct familiarity to Pitoiset’s method, as she combines authentic and impostor objects to make scenes that flicker between reality and fantasy. But there is also something to be said for giving well-worn tricks fresh life. And give life Pitoiset does, foregrounding the animating powers of costumes and props, while human absence haunts.

The sleight of hand continues when viewers are lured us into the gallery’s back room by glowing pink neon. Here, the space’s corners hold odd, interloping items. In The Spirit, 2014, a tumbler filled with resin-cast whiskey can be seen through an open cupboard door, while nearby is a photo of a cat that perches atop an electric utilities box. Discernible in this cheeky use of a gallery’s boring bits is a spirit of institutional critique ŕ la Michael Asher. But as with the feminist exegesis suggested in the title of her exhibition, Pitoiset’s critical relationship to the white cube couples wit with a penchant for theatrical magic. Without such compound sentiments, it might be art itself that vanishes.

Mitch Speed

Bani Abidi

Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (n.b.k.)
Chausseestrasse 128-129
March 7, 2017–April 30, 2017

Bani Abidi, An Unforeseen Situation, 2015, HD video, color, sound, 6 minutes 52 seconds.

In 2014, the Pakistan Sports Board organized a series of competitions in the Punjab region with the intention of winning more world records for the nation. In her video An Unforeseen Situation, 2015, Bani Abidi muses on her country’s efforts by imagining new concepts for such feats, including setting a record for the largest number of people singing Pakistan’s national anthem, and the most walnuts broken with a man’s forehead in one minute. As to whether these events happened, the video seems to question if that matters.

The work is slick and witty in its simplicity; 150,000 green plastic chairs slowly fill up the frame as we learn about the ostensibly history-making recital. A plan to gift all attendees an apple-shaped polished rock with a small clock mounted on it and a gold leaf on top is expected to guarantee success. But the perfect kitsch objects are boxed away as the many chairs are restacked, and the event is canceled: People are not tempted by the reward and the state is in trouble. In a parallel narrative, a young man practices for the walnut challenge by laying the nuts on a wooden table and doing push-ups before collecting them again. This series of senseless repetitions, with their minimal aesthetic, humorously conveys the delusions of nationalist ideology.

As India and Pakistan both continue to grapple with the trauma of the 1947 Partition, the artist comments on the symbolic production of state power and national identity. An Unforeseen Situation makes a clever satire of these benign-seeming strategies and their dark underpinnings.

Kristian Vistrup Madsen

Pierre Klossowski

Schinkel Pavillon
Oberwallstrasse 1
March 18, 2017–May 14, 2017

Pierre Klossowski, Roberte au Passage Choiseul (Robert at Choiseul Pass), 1979, colored pencil on paper, 90 x 59".

Concerning his outstanding drawings created as book illustrations, Pierre Klossowski once said that they were all portraits. Those of the character Roberte, the focus in this exhibition, hark back to one of the central female personages of his three-volume novel trilogy, The Laws of Hospitality (1954–65), the second of which provides the show’s title. In that volume Roberte, ce Soir (Robert, Tonight), Roberte, at the wish of her husband, Octave, has to offer her body to his guests, yielding a highly ambivalent constellation of scenes of emancipated loyalty and abuse, voyeurism, and downright clichéd perversion, present in La générosité de Roberte (Robert’s Generosity) or Roberte au Passage Choiseul (Robert at Choiseul Pass), both 1979. Klossowski’s wife, Denise, whose middle name was Roberte, was potentially the model for these figurative works, including the mock-ups for three sculptures from the 1990s also exhibited here.

Writer Jean-Noël Vuarnet has made a case that the artist’s scenic staging of naked bodies is more closely related to that of photography and cinema rather than classical art history. Klossowski’s own theater of obsession is here fittingly juxtaposed with a felicitous selection of avant-garde films, suggesting a new contextualization for the drawings. The show’s accompanying film program—curated by Marc Glöde—includes the experimental classics Takahiko Iimura’s Ai (Love) (1962) and Abigail Child’s Mayhem (1987), feminist approaches such as Carolee Schneemann’s Fuses (1964–67) and Yoko Ono’s Freedom (1970), as well as Richard Kern’s “Cinema of Transgression” short Submit to Me (1986), Harun Farocki’s analysis of the production of a Playboy centerfold, Ein Bild (An Image, 1983), and Shu Lea Cheang’s portrait of lesbian sexuality, Sex Fish (1993).

Translated from German by Diana Reese.

Fiona McGovern

Jasmin Werner

Gillmeier Rech
Körnerstraße 17
April 22, 2017–May 27, 2017

Jasmin Werner, “Sara and Tobias I–IV,” 2017, plastic pavilion window, ink-jet prints on plastic foil, 93 x 50".

Jasmin Werner’s exhibition features mechanical staircase constructions and windows taken from industrially produced garden pavilions. Four of these cheap-looking plastic sheets, which imitate the arc of church windows, are stretched over plastic foil that features ink-jet prints of a biblical couple for the series “Sara and Tobias,” 2017. In ancient times, social status—already defined by money and sexual prowess—was perceived as God-given and sacred. However, not unlike in modern secular times, status could also be achieved by faith and the right investment of erotic energies: While Sara’s seven former husbands were killed, Tobias was able to avoid such a fate by deferring the accursed sexual expenditure during three nights of prayer, as told in the Bible’s Old Testament.

The sheet windows in this series can be explicitly related to the large glass panels of Marcel Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, 1915–23, which pictures the modern social machine as driven by repressed desires. However, after the death of God, modern people are believed to be free and equal, and exegesis can seemingly no longer legitimate individual status. Under these conditions, one’s social position appears to be fake, always a simulacrum, but it is nevertheless real. People are still compelled to climb ladders, and we estimate one another according to perceived value. Werner’s machinelike aluminum stairs not only refer to various monumental buildings but can be seen as models for an eternal, libido-driven International, reminiscent of Vladimir Tatlin. In another reference to Duchamp and the phantasm of his Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2), 1912, Werner’s series of sculptures “Ambivalent Ladder”, 2016–17, all of them blocked behind a half transparent green dust sheeting—jokingly labeled Net Work, 2017—function as symbolic images for the technological framework that culturally integrates erotic energies vertically.

Philipp Kleinmichel

Lu Yang

Genthiner Strasse 36
April 28, 2017–June 10, 2017

Lu Yang, LuYang Delusional Mandala, 2015, HD video, color, sound, 16 minutes 26 seconds.

What is it that sets Lu Yang apart from all the other millennial artists dabbling in CGI-powered fantasies of techno-dystopias? As an answer, her new show gestures beyond post-Internet excess and rigorous 3-D modeling toward her capacity for transforming even the most tedious recitation of facts into a mesmerizing visual narrative. In such videos as LuYang Delusional Mandala, 2015, or LuYang Delusional Crime and Punishment, 2016, a text-to-speech voice describes features of the central nervous system or physiological stages of death, painstakingly setting forth information as sonic ready-mades, against the sound track of an electronica-infused East Asian dance party. Having been plucked free of her hair and sex characteristics with 3-D imaging software at the beginning of LuYang Delusional Mandala, the artist stars in both videos as a genderless naked raver—sometimes wearing a digital wig—whose presence distracts the viewer from the animated infographics playing behind her. Add to this mix all the different levels of hell that sinners might be relegated to, and you get a satyr-as-devil go-go boy gyrating to R&B on top of a rotating brain.

For Gong Tau Kite, 2016, however, Lu goes in the direction of the visually smooth and uncluttered by zooming in on a soaring, gigantic inflatable head with very long dreadlocks above a desert-like landscape. Accompanied by a mellow dance track by the Singapore-born, New York–based producer Yllis, the drone footage of the tentacled creature has a flawless finish and wouldn’t look out of place in an advertisement for SXSW. Yet the invasion of the gallery’s high-ceilinged rooms by this kite’s appendages (or rather the work’s claustrophobic confinement to a dark gallery space) suggests that the transcendence-seeking lust for packaged experiences is nothing but futile.

Gökcan Demirkazik

Kapwani Kiwanga

Galerie Tanja Wagner
Pohlstraße 64
April 28, 2017–June 16, 2017

View of “Kapwani Kiwanga: Linear,” 2017. From left: Linear Painting #4 Weyburn Mental Hospital (Weybrun, Saskatchewan), Linear Painting #5 Saint Laurent du Maroni prison (Guiana), both 2017.

The saying “If these walls could talk” naturally implies that they can’t. But Kapwani Kiwanga is of a different mind. Her exhibition challenges the assumed neutrality of interiors in an investigation into the psychology of institutional architecture. A black line 160 centimeters from the floor traces the entire wall of the gallery. According to the hygiene standards of Europe, this marks the height below which walls should be washed in order to prevent the spread of illnesses. Consequently, hospital walls, much like society itself, have been divided into two colors: clean and infected.

Kiwanga’s “Linear Painting” series (all works 2017) on drywall curates a history of the two-tone wall colors prevalent in prisons, hospitals, and workplaces. Peach-terra-cotta and blue-green combinations, for instance, were developed by a dedicated color theorist for a Chicago factory to help bolster the efficiency of workers. A benign strategy perhaps, but one which, given the black and brown pairing used in a prison in French Guiana, quickly emerges as a form of social control. The black pigment for the lower half was chosen because it would rub off and thus mark anyone who got out of line. While the light turquoise of a Canadian mental hospital is said to have a calming effect, the transhistorical context established by the series installs “calm” as an ally of “staying in line,” with color as a solution to modernism’s intolerance of difference and liminality. In an intelligent translation of research to form, Kiwanga’s pastel hues emerge as powerful testimonies to division and struggle.

Kristian Vistrup Madsen

Rebecca Morris

Galerie Barbara Weiss
Kohlfurter Strasse 41/43
April 28, 2017–June 17, 2017

Rebecca Morris, Untitled (#07-17), 2017, oil on canvas, 98 x 88".

Rebecca Morris’s new works are dangerously close to being feel-good kitsch, only to evade that fate by the skin of their proverbial teeth. Each of the five large paintings in this show is composed of fragmentary shapes cobbled into offhand compositions, containing repeated gestures rendered in polite hues. In sum, the pictures feel like errant glances at the world’s endless visual patterns—interlocking bricks, speckled leaves, crumbling stucco exteriors—transmuted into the psychedelic language of abstract painting.

If this seems like an undiscerning use of the medium’s mimetic function, it’s because Morris’s paintings openly court painterly genericism. Fortunately, the artist also manifests an electrified desire to trip the eye’s sense of space. In Untitled (#07-17) (all works cited, 2017), she echoes Picasso’s Still Life with Chair Caning, 1912, by way of an oval filled with zigzagging patches of loose patterning, though hers is set against a white ground flecked with blue. Picasso’s ghost here lends the weight of provenance to the artist’s principle endeavor: unhinging the eye from its bored habits of seeing, and using color and shape to conjure space where none exists.

While Morris’s daubed and spray-painted marks twitch under close attention, content is only ever suggested. In Untitled (#06-17), a patch of overlapping patterns is offset against gray, as if referencing the excavated layers of a worn floor. Similarly, Untitled (#05-17) finds a stenciled, Arts and Crafts–style lattice containing sprayed blotches in white, gold, and black, hovering over a scene of splattered browns. Morris’s style risks a decidedly saleable emptiness, but by infusing winsomeness with idiosyncratic decisions, it ultimately attains the charming humility of a cover singer, lending old standards a fresh lilt.

Mitch Speed

Paolo Chiasera

Köpenicker Str. 126
April 29, 2017–June 17, 2017

Paolo Chiasera, Frankenstein 18 BSDM, 2017, painting and monoprinting on plaster on canvas, 71 x 75".

With his solo exhibition opening during Berlin’s annual Gallery Weekend, Paolo Chiasera preempted the hazy state of mind that bustling art consumers might experience after such an event. The artist plays Dr. Frankenstein and creates uncanny chimeras, each composed of two to five fragments taken from works in various mediums by the fifty-four artists whose shows also opened as part of the official weekend programming. In Chiasera’s resulting paintings, some references remain legible while others are dominated and blurred by juxtapositions. The distorted face in Frankenstein 18 BSDM (all works 2017) bears features of the Belgian comic character Lucky Luke and Pinocchio after fusing together works by !Mediengruppe Bitnik, Katja Strunz, Edith Dekyndt, and Michel Majerus. A subtle piece by Bernd Lohaus seems to be tattooed onto a portrait by Roni Horn for Frankenstein 3 HL, the initials standing for the artists’ last names. But not all works are figurative—behind one of Rebecca Morris’s signature grid structures in Frankenstein 12 MK, a pale-blue Robert Kuśmirowski installation is almost completely obscured.

Collapsing oeuvres and techniques, each hybrid mixes al fresco painting with monoprinting on plaster, mounted on canvas. In previous projects, Chiasera blended curatorial and artistic practices by painting imaginary exhibitions or creating mobile display contexts. Here, he constructs a nightmarish scenario of conflation that follows no logic but seems to be directed partly by feverish intuition, partly by algorithm, and could be read as a comment on the dubious power play between artists, curators, gallerists, collectors, and the ostensibly minor visitors.

Eva Scharrer

Win McCarthy

Keithstrasse 12
April 22–June 24

Win McCarthy, January ’17 calendar (Der Fuß des Künstlers), 2017, foamcore, C-prints, paper, stones, tape, pencil, pins, 37 x 40 x 2".

The top of the checklist reads “FOR ASSEMBLY,” as if to suggest that this exhibition of new works by American artist Win McCarthy is a type of instruction manual. McCarthy, like a TV handyman, lays out the materials: a floor display of wooden sticks, a blown-glass mask, a large yellow toy crane, and a collage juxtaposing a photograph of young people with another of a full-size crane, collectively titled “Staging area” (all works 2017). So, what are we assembling?

Two collages on the wall, January ’17 calendar (Der Fuß des Künstlers) and March ’17 calendar (bits & pieces), would seem to indicate something as elusive as time or a life. January is dominated by a large photograph of the artist’s foot covering several pencil-drawn squares on a yellowed board surface, while others neatly contain figurations of small stones, pictures of friends, and cities. In March, objects and images flank the empty grid, as if still deciding how to arrange themselves for the month, which is already past, implying that boxes were always inadequate hosts for a pile of being anyway. Here, time is a volatile substance, layered, subjective, and intensely unfit for formal organization.

Yet in these works McCarthy gives perfect form to that impossible task precisely by failing to adhere to his purported templates, be they calendars or the shapes of people. Mr. Reticence, a stuffed fabric torso with a blown-glass mask for a face and a single pink shoelace for hair, becomes the mascot for a whole team of similarly botched and taciturn characters. Eerie as well as silly in their fragility, these sculptures remind us that being unclear, or illegible, is not the same as being nothing, just as an empty schedule is not an index of lost time.

Kristian Vistrup Madsen

“The Finger that Shows the Moon Never Moons”

Dan Gunn
Schlesische Strasse 29, Street front, 3rd Floor
April 22–June 25

View of “The Finger that Shows the Moon Never Moons,” 2017. From left: Apichatpong Weerasethakul, The Vapor of Melancholy, 2014; Susanne Winterling, Untitled (The pressure behind your nailcolour, my dear), 2009.

Amid political turmoil, we might look to the moon to galvanize our struggle for a better present, or simply for aid in leaving it all behind. The exhibition “The Finger that Shows the Moon Never Moons” brings together eight artists along with their drives and escapisms.

The moon in question might be Renato Leotta’s Aprile, 2017, a disk covered in black volcanic sand hung just above eye level. Flat and unspectacular, the plaster plate is insufficient in representing the celestial body, but it toys with a theatrical register in its willful yet ironic invitation to suspend disbelief. A similar theme carries over in Rodrigo Hernández’s prop-like Super Position, 2016, a piece of outdated, perhaps Cold War–era technology modeled in cardboard. With childish pretense, the work insists on belonging to a parallel universe—however, even here the tarnish of history endures.

Meanwhile, in The Vapor of Melancholy, 2014, a back-lit photograph by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, play takes an existential turn. A young man lies on a bed, his hand in a dainty bend, as he breathes out a cloud of smoke in a rain of superimposed fireworks. His blissful high troubles the mood of the title, evoking the ambivalence in escaping only to inevitably return.

Susanne Winterling’s glass prints of phosphorescent algae share in this urge for the otherworldly. Crossover Planetary Algae Empire (for Octavia Butler), 2017, shows the organism lit up by a spotlight, imbuing the green-blue shape with a mesmerizing dimensionality. Dedicated to the famous science-fiction writer, Winterling’s work abandons the Anthropocene for life under different moons.

Kristian Vistrup Madsen

Shirana Shahbazi

KINDL – Centre for Contemporary Art
Am Sudhaus 3
April 2–August 6

Shirana Shahbazi, [Frucht-03-2007] (Fruit-03-2007), C-print on aluminum, 47 x 59".

While hardly anyone still believes in photography’s claim to truth these days, the medium continues to renew its promise of authenticity. The contention that images, identities, and worlds are constructed has long been evident––even analog photography has for some time now had to account for it. Rather than clinging to that discussion, Shirana Shahbazi’s pictures take as their point of departure the material world, never completely breaking away from their relationship to objects. In this exhibition, thirty-five photographs are seemingly displayed at random, but each’s presentation is deliberate and should be perceived as such. Within the disparate arrangement and heterogeneous imagery, there are still lifes of extreme artificiality and simplicity, including [Frucht-03-2007] (Fruit-03-2007) and [Magnolie-04-2013] (Magnolia-04-2013), as well as examples of geometric abstraction—[Objekt-25-2013] (Object-25-2013) and [Kreise-02-2014] (Circles-02-2014).

Elsewhere are two-tone lithographs of fleeting landscapes and vistas of travel, such as [Wellen] (Waves) and [Wüste] (Desert), both 2014. In the case of the abstract [Raster-01-2013] (Grid-01-2013), a reduction is achieved alongside the creation of a complex play between the impression of flatness and space. Shahbazi’s photographs are all marked by their disparate nature: The images feel controlled, improvised, logical, and baffling all at once. This show can be taken as ironic and, at the same time, as an expression of radical rigor. What is chiefly important here is equivalence, the illusion of classification, and freedom from hierarchy.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.

Melissa Canbaz

Adrian Piper

Hamburger Bahnhof
Invalidenstraße 50-51
February 24–September 3

Adrian Piper, The Probable Trust Registry: The Rules of the Game #1–3, 2013–. Installation view.

When speaking with former residents of East Germany, it’s not uncommon to hear stories of deceit, such as family and friends spying on one another in service to the state. Given that history, knotty questions are raised when an American artist’s installation asks visitors to question their trust in oneself and others. This is the provocation made by The Probable Trust Registry: The Rules of the Game #1–3, 2013–, an installation from Adrian Piper, who has lived in Berlin since 2005, after being placed on the United States’ list of “suspicious travelers.”

In this museum’s cavernous main hall, three towering walls have been installed, each footed by a curved desk. Here sit museum attendants, who guide visitors through electronic contracts demanding nearly impossible commitments: “I will always mean what I say,” “I will always be too expensive to buy,” “I will always do what I say I am going to do.” Following the show, a list of the signatories will be kept by the institution, as well as distributed to the participants. While Piper’s early work used public performances to disturb common expectations of propriety, this piece converts the audience into a collective performer, tasked with self-scrutiny.

Though her work is grounded in extensive philosophical study, this piece cuts into the gap between ideals and reality. Most people would love to be “too expensive to buy.” Unfortunately, economic pressure and normalized state surveillance often make such integrity untenable. Piper’s gesture thus tangles a fantasy––solidarity between the righteous––with a more realistic picture of a kinship based in ethical compromise. As a social experiment, this work is a little didactic, even patronizing. But its implications are crucial. Within late capitalism, the boundary between choice and coercion is at best elusive, and at worst an illusion.

Mitch Speed

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

Violet Dennison

Galerie Jan Kaps
Jülicher Straße 24A
January 20, 2017–April 8, 2017

Violet Dennison, Pipe Re-Route, 2017, pipes, water, soap, dimensions variable.

Bacteria are the scary, invisible monsters of the public sphere. They cover the earth and, even though some do good, many can be harmful. Violet Dennison’s second show at this gallery examines these microorganisms to develop a narrative around the rituals of washing, cleaning, and scrubbing, which can range from healthy body treatments to ecologically damaging routines.

In HIDE Succession (all works cited, 2017), a short video presented on a flat-screen television, the artist walks through a New York subway station following a mass of people. Shooting with a body camera, Dennison moves like a silent specimen through the hectic crowds until, apparently having no destination, she slowly says aloud, “Bacteria is a careless creature it reproduces without consequence.” The floor installation Pipe Re-Route extends the drainpipe from the gallery’s sink into the exhibition space, where it suddenly leaks soapy, dirty water onto the floor after anyone washes her hands. “Rub and rub,” comments writer Mark von Schlegell in the press release. “You’ll never wash your hands of the public chaff, straw, splinters of wood, weeds, and sea-gluten, scum, cum, scales from shining rocks.”

The show extends into a second gallery space, on the opposite side of the street, where the artist presents the wall work Transcend, a fragile installation made from found bent-aluminum piping and eel grass, the latter collected in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and from the Lido in Venice. Contaminated with toxic waste, the shimmering black sea-grass-clad metal is turned into wall-mounted flotsam. Beautiful and uncanny, her works point to ecosystems beyond the surface of the sea or wall-hidden plumbing and toward the unseen.

Vivien Trommer

Arne Schmitt

Jacky Strenz
Kurt-Schumacher-Str. 2
May 6–July 18

Arne Schmitt, In new Splendor (7), 2017, ink-jet print, 14 x 11".

As is often the case with Arne Schmitt’s photographs, the selection of them here can be mistaken, at first glance, for architecture photography. But his sober black-and-white works, which combine an engagement with architecture and city planning in low-key compositions without gimmicks, go far beyond that. In this exhibition, the shots are the tip of an iceberg of invisible research activity.

The series “In new Splendor,” 2017, examines the built heritage of an insurance group in the northwest of Cologne’s city center, which Schmitt reveals to be the point of intersection for different discourses. Michel Foucault’s thesis from his late 1970s lectures The Birth of Biopolitics—the beginning of neoliberalism is to be located in the reformation of the German Republic after 1945—is key for this artist. Correspondingly, he traces a corporate history that addresses not only Germany’s economic miracle but also the development of neoliberal ideology’s dishonest dealings and signature managerial style that openly opposes state and labor union interference.

The group’s business broke up in the aftermath of 9/11, and their former headquarters now houses luxury apartments. One learns all of this in an advertisement for the new development, which Schmitt has furnished with thorough footnotes and included here. It is this subtext that first brings the photographs to full expression and allows one to perceive, for example, the Third Reich–derived style preferred by the insurance group’s patriarch. Not coincidentally, numerous sculptures by Arno Breker—Hitler’s favorite sculptor––still stand on the grounds today. Suddenly, the sobriety of these images is transformed, and historical contamination filters into the present day.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.

Moritz Scheper

Lena Henke

Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt
April 28–July 30

View of “Lena Henke,” 2017.

Lena Henke has made a walk-in artwork out of the rotunda, a space neither interior nor exterior, illuminated by the light from an approximately sixty-five-foot-tall glass dome. A sculptor by heart, Henke works with the architecture to make the crowds passing through—often to reach the cathedral from old town—aware of the typically overlooked space, interrupting their flow and diverting their attention.

Two oval-shaped glossy aluminum boxes, in the tradition of Donald Judd’s specific objects, stand in the pathways, blocking the two opposing entrances. From the mezzanine one story above, grains of dry sand trickle through the rolling grilles that have replaced four floor-to-ceiling windows and down to lower floors, landing on the sculptures or on the heads of passersby. Looking up, visitors find men walking on piles of the sand, constantly pushing heaps through the grids’ holes. Like Carl Andre’s Grave, 1967, for which he poured a bag of sand down a stairwell, Henke’s work speaks about gravity, evanescence, and the devolution of sculpture. A material fundamental to bronze casting, sand, as it functions in Henke’s work, shape-shifts while forming the artwork. Seen from the mezzanines above, the two aluminum boxes on the ground floor become stand-ins for eyes and the architecture’s columns form a skeleton, and it becomes apparent that Henke has transformed the rotunda into a giant sculpture of a head.

In homage to architect Luis Barragán, magnificent pink, blue, and yellow hues mark the rotunda’s walls and columns. Throughout the day, these delicate tones take on beautiful shades in a compelling public intervention that engages light, form, and color.

Vivien Trommer