new-york

Peter Bömmels

Sonnabend Gallery

In the brave new conceptual art world of semiotic orthodoxy and reductionism—of semiotic stereotypes—is there a place for the German painter Peter Bömmels, with his Grimm’s-fairy-tale world of horrific metamorphosis and his preoccupation with death and dissolution? In trying to escape “the code” and its supposed neutralizing effects, does the work only become more victimized by it, and self-neutralizing? Bömmels’ Gothicism might be thought merely another part of “retro fashion” and the culture of nostalgia and quotation, another dumb effort to “rehabilitate the referential” and to create presence through seductive surface. Many of his pictures tend to “degenerate” into their surfaces—encrusted papier-mâché in some cases, human hair in others; is his peculiarly Germanic effort to retain “the real” (in perverse form) simply another sign of how unretainable it is? One could argue that the

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