Critics’ Picks

Simon Schubert, Untitled (Staircase out of water),
2009, 45 x 35”.

Berlin

Simon Schubert

Galerie Bastian
Am Kupfergraben 10
May 1 - June 27

The main installation of “In Apnoesie,” Simon Schubert’s first solo exhibition in Berlin, collects crisp, clean black-and-white sculptures that recall horror-film tropes. At first glance, its cool presentation suggests that our nightmares have become domesticated, maybe even sanitized. But somehow, they still do not feel safe. The distance that Schubert achieves by removing any hint of gore and by addressing his darkly surreal source material with a levelheaded aesthetic slowly accentuates the creepiness of his work, even for viewers jaded by graphic violence.

Among the works the Cologne-based artist offers are a circle of ghoulish little girls in identical prim dresses standing with black hair completely obscuring their faces, as if they are the well-groomed sisters of the monstrous drowned child from the Japanese film Ringu (Ring, 1988). Candelabras that depict slender ladies’ arms emerge from the walls and bring to mind Jean Cocteau’s 1946 La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast). Finally, a white plinth supports a mysterious orb covered in puffy black fabric that has peepholes through which viewers can glimpse a skull illuminated by light-emitting diodes. The show’s most impressive images are almost invisible at first. Lining the walls and ceiling are stark white panels of paper, which Schubert has folded and layered over other white sheets to evoke subtle sculptural images of classic wall moldings, long corridors, staircases, and halls with mirrors, like a stately, but probably haunted, house.