Critics’ Picks

Tal R, Girl in Wagon, 2008, oil on canvas, 98 1/2 x 98 1/2".


Tal R

Kunsthalle zu Kiel
Düsternbrooker Weg 1
April 5–June 7

Tal R’s first comprehensive museum exhibition in Germany arrives late for such a productive and independent artist, one whose work has exerted an immense influence on a younger generation. This well-deserved exhibition, which takes up all three floors of the institution, showcases a wide array of his expressive forms.

On the ground floor, several diverse individual works are gathered in a dense installation. Although nothing is installed on the wall, abstract paintings and pictures made with fabric, as well as small sculptures and drawings, are presented in arrangements through which the viewer can navigate, like a well-structured maze. Here Tal R’s countless refined details attest to his intensive involvement with the exhibition’s conception and his participation in its finely tuned details. The show is regularly punctuated by sculpture, such as the amorphous cellulose-pulp cocoons in Ppppalace, 2007–2008, in which several small objects have been captured. Nonetheless, these pieces––at least in the variations presented here––appear to be merely filler. The archaic and exalted figuration in the delicately finished wooden sculptures (Flicka II and Owl [both 2008]) recall cultural costumes and folk traditions, but his works are more effective when made according to a more direct and nearly sullied approach. His roughly painted glazed-ceramic conical sculptures Hyacint (Hyacinth) and Flovmand (both 2008), for example, are quite convincing.

On the second floor, there are videos, some made in collaboration with other artists. One of these offers another view of Tal R: as a drummer. Yet on the third floor, he returns to standard museum-installation practice with large-format paintings hung modestly and precisely on the walls. Paintings like Death of a Lady, 2005, Black River, 2007, and the sluggish and charmingly composed Girl in Wagon, 2008, which presents a powerful and stunning brown-and-purple-on-white composition, are among the best pieces the exhibition has to offer. While the merit of this show lies in the full presentation of the breadth and depth of Tal R’s oeuvre, this wide range also reveals the originality of his work, which aspires to the highest level.

Translated from German by Jane Brodie.