Critics’ Picks

View of “Tobias Rehberger,” 2019–2020. Galeria Pedro Cera, Lisbon. Photo: Bruno Lopez.

View of “Tobias Rehberger,” 2019–2020. Galeria Pedro Cera, Lisbon. Photo: Bruno Lopez.


Tobias Rehberger

Galeria Pedro Cera
Rua do Patrocínio, 67E
November 16, 2019–January 4, 2020

Working at the intersections between visual art, design, and architecture, Tobias Rehberger never forgets a dash of irony. For his third exhibition here, the German artist presents “mother without child,” 2019, a series of floor sculptures approximating huge empty vessels. Unlike his well-known “Portrait Vases” of the ‘90s, these new works bear no references to Rehberger’s artist friends and are not filled with flowers. Oversized, non-functional, and hollow, the “mother without child” sculptures are composed of what look like giant Easter eggs, rendered in fiberglass and epoxy and painted a variety of garish colors. The ovular forms, stacked and fixed together at curious angles, make seemingly precarious, human-scale totem poles. Crooked, manly, short, chubby: these are just some of the vases’ titular adjectives, all of which could also describe any ordinary person. Rehberger’s eerie sculptures look like aimless, wandering ghosts.

A large, flickering neon sign in shades of orange, purple, and red hangs in gallery’s window, reading: “After this point violators will be prosecuted.” As in Rehberger’s other neon works, the title of AFTER THIS POINT VIOLATORS (FREE NOT AFRAID), 2016, contains conflicting perspectives, poking holes in our understanding of what it means to communicate. His sense of irony manifests in his use of bright, cheery hues to describe our truly desolate reality. Vases become functionless and gargantuan; a sparkling neon sign flashes threatening penal warnings. Rehberger knows that there is something broken in the system and has come to warn us of its looming presence.