Critics’ Picks

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

Berlin

Stefan Thater

Éclair
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.