PRINT December 2011

Wolfgang Tillmans

William Leavitt, Jaguar (from “The Tropics”), 1974, oil on canvas, 34 1/4 x 44 1/4".

1 “William Leavitt: Theater Objects” (Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; curated by Ann Goldstein and Bennett Simpson) Leavitt’s paintings and film-set installations of the 1970s and ’80s show an awareness of the constructedness and fragmentation of Western reality that was way ahead of his time. For example, his paintings can seem curiously lacking in detail, unless you know that he took a cue from prop art, doing the minimum necessary to make the work look like a “real painting” when captured on film—a low-res approach that predicted the degradation of image quality that is all around us now thanks to Web 2.0.

Henrik Olesen, 17“ PowerBook G4 (detail), 2010, disassembled laptop mounted on Plexiglas, two parts, each 39 3/8 x 78 3/4”. From the series “I Do Not Go to Work Today. I Don’t Think I Go Tomorrow,” 2010.

2 Henrik Olesen (Kunstmuseum Basel; curated by Nikola Dietrich and Jacob Fabricius) “Someone disassembles his laptop and sticks the parts to Plexiglas”: Who would think, after hearing that description, that the work in question would feel new, relevant, and compelling? But Olesen’s arrangements of technological scraps are touching displays of his own entanglement with conditions beyond his control and understanding. The “Papa-Mama-Ich” series of 2009 also moved me deeply. In addition to sculptures, it consists of thirty prints of pages from the Daily Mail, the UK’s most popular and spiteful middle-market tabloid, partially overprinted with texts questioning, deploring, and rejecting the concept of family and Olesen’s own embroilment in its confining traditional roles. In the entirety of this expansive survey, there was no sentimentality.

Co-organized with Malmö Konsthall, Sweden.

Vyacheslav Akhunov, 1 Square Meter (detail), 2009, 375 matchboxes, video projection. From “Atlas—How to Carry the World on One’s Back?”

3 “Atlas—How to Carry the World on One’s Back?” (Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; curated by Georges Didi-Huberman) Bringing together numerous artists’ attempts to chart, list, and measure the world—and ultimately truth itself—this show was kooky, quirky, and nerdy. Didi-Huberman made no attempt to dumb down the complex and diverse works on view, proving that it is possible for a national museum to mount a nuanced thematic exhibition that will find both an audience and critical success.

Co-organized with Sammlung Falckenberg, Hamburg, and ZKM Museum für Neue Kunst, Karlsruhe, Germany.

Willem de Rooij, Intolerance (detail), 2011, Melchior d’Hondecoeter paintings, Hawaiian feather-work pieces, three-part publication. Installation view, Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin. Photo: Jens Ziehe.

4 Willem de Rooij (Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin) In the heart of the modernist dream that is Mies van der Rohe’s Neue Nationalgalerie, de Rooij’s installation was a wildly extravagant apparition surrounded by ample amounts of space. Juxtaposing Hawaiian featherworks with Melchior d’Hondecoeter’s seventeenth-century paintings of fighting birds, the artist created an ambitious, spectacularly colorful collage that became especially potent through its title: Intolerance.

Organized by the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the Ethnologisches Museum, the Gemäldegalerie, and the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst, Berlin.

Richard Hawkins, House of the Mad Professor (detail), 2008, wood, collage, plastic, lighting, table. 41 3/4 x 37 x 37".

5 Richard Hawkins (Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; curated by Lisa Dorin) While Leavitt explores the nature of display and exposure, his fellow LA artist Hawkins creates works that are charged with the allure of the hidden. At the Hammer (where Ali Subotnick was the on-site curator), Hawkins’s architectural models and dioramas, cruising mazes, and photographic images of desire coexisted with paintings that are pure and autonomous in their exploration of color, composition, and the medium itself. Over the years Hawkins has developed a totally independent practice that doesn’t follow any trends, while never losing his eye for a hot picture.

Organized by the Art Institute of Chicago.

Mark Morrisroe, ‘Nymph-O-Maniac’ Promo Still Spectacular Studios (Pia, Richard, Nathan), 1984, color photograph, 16 x 20."

6 Mark Morrisroe (Artists Space, New York; curated by Richard Birkett, Stefan Kalmár, and Beatrix Ruf) There is a passion in Morrisroe’s work that is so touching today, because one feels that his pictures weren’t taken with publication in mind. The curators had an interesting take on how to deal with the image-to-print relationship in exhibitions of historical photography (for Morrisroe’s ’80s hustler underworld is definitely history now). Most often his work is shown matted, but here the prints were shown in their entirety, letting viewers see the white edges that he used to test the retouching dyes before applying them to a speck of dust or hair.

Co-organized with the Estate of Mark Morrisroe at Fotomuseum Wintherthur, Switzerland.

Thomas Struth, The Bernstein Family, Mündersbach, 1990, color photograph, 36 1/2 x 49 1/2".

7 Thomas Struth (K20 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, and Whitechapel Gallery, London; curated by Anette Kruszynski) I grew up near Düsseldorf myself, so seeing some of Struth’s early photographs of sites around the city, from the time when I was a child, gave me a particular thrill. There is a relaxedness, if one may use this term for an exponent of the Becher school, to Struth’s point of view that I like—he has no fear of ordinariness. His views down a street are not always straight, nor are they necessarily the most graphically impressive things you’ve ever seen. On the other end of the spectrum, I sympathize with his exploration of high technology, which he presents almost as a force majeure.

Organized by K20 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in cooperation with Kunsthaus Zürich.

Michael Fullerton, Columbia, the Woman, 2010, screen-print on newsprint, 4' 10 1/2“ x 19' 7 7/8” .

8 “Michael Fullerton: Columbia” (Chisenhale Gallery, London; curated by Polly Staple) Under the directorship of Polly Staple, Chisenhale has once again become the primary venue for emerging artists’ London premieres. This exhibition was a great showcase for Fullerton’s method of amalgamating disparate inspirations—from concepts of discovery and colonial endeavor to the space shuttle, Columbia Pictures, and Christopher Columbus—into an elegant overarching installation.

Boris Mikhailov, Black Archive, 1968–79, one of 152 black-and-white photographs, colored pencil.

9 Boris Mikhailov (Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin) At their best, Mikhailov’s photos of his fellow Ukrainians are magic concoctions of dignity and edginess. His portraits overcome the pitfalls of documentary photography’s so-called realness without resorting to the safety of the artist’s studio. And though they’re not filled with pictorial or historical references, his artless in-camera compositions have the urgency that every good history “painting” has.

View of “Marc Camille Chaimowicz: Appartament . . . ,” 2011, MD72, Berlin. Foreground: Dressing Table, 1977–2011. Background: Here and There, 1978–2009. Photo: Stefan Korte.

10 Marc Camille Chaimowicz (MD72, Berlin) This installation was a wonderful fusion of two different domestic spaces. In a spacious prewar Berlin apartment where the sunlight was partially obscured by gauzy curtains, the fifteen-minute film Partial Views of an Interior, 1978, played on old-school Hantarex monitors, offering glimpses of the younger Chaimowicz’s London live-work space. Panels were propped against the walls, some with photographs of interiors tacked to them, some showing printed patterns, their status suspended in an ambiguous space between picture, furniture, and display device.

Wolfgang Tillmans is an artist who lives and works in Berlin and London. His solo exhibition at Warsaw’s Zachęta Narodowa Galeria Sztuki will be on view until January 29. Abstract Pictures, a monograph on his recent work, was published by Hatje Cantz in July. Since 2006 he has run the London exhibition space Between Bridges.