Critics’ Picks

View of “Stefan Thater: Der Mann mit dem runden Gesicht (The man with the round face)” 2017.


Stefan Thater

Gotzkowskystr. 16
December 16 - January 29

From the gray Berlin street, one can peer into Stefan Thater’s exhibition like the Little Match Girl into a warm living room. A mix of tusche and oil on paper, Poster Éclair (all works 2017) fills the glass entrance to the gallery with a pock-marked pattern of pale pink, resembling a slide from microbiology or backlit marble. It’s a fantasy of heat that contains all the ambivalence of fire: a nurturing as well as a destructive force.

The man with the round face alluded to in the show’s title is, we learn, a chimney sweeper—a bearer of luck in German folklore, but also the only person entitled by law to access your home without a warrant. For Thater, this figure triggered a preoccupation with intrusion and, more specifically, the infrastructures that connect domestic spaces with society at large. Anruf der goldenen Wand (Call of the Golden Wall), a vitrine flanking the gallery’s gold mosaic wall, contains, among other things, a polystyrene telephone with a length of silver garland. The seasonally appropriate material reoccurs in the installation Dark Embryo as the festive umbilical cord of an uncanny upside-down drawing of the artist’s antihero at work with his brush. Installed in a gloomy backroom, the mystical character has here reached a private sphere with devilish inevitability.

The equal measures of anxiety and fascination with which the artist has introduced this strange man culminate in a series of intense objects titled “Purgatory.” These scorched orange abstractions on dark painted, extruded polystyrene blocks appear to be the frail survivors of an epically mundane trauma: the glowing ember of an idiosyncratic and humorous mind.