Al Meier

Peter Noser Gallery

Al Meier thinks of himself fundamentally as a painter, even though there has always been a clear tendency toward objectness in his pictures. That is, painting is for Meier not only the object of his actual artistic activity, but also the object of his reflections about art: painting thus becomes a kind of meta-painting, which acts as the comprehensive background of his work. With this process it is the poetic moment that is of primary importance, for despite all the thought involved, these paintings are not really conceptual works; rather, they are playfully intuitive approximations of precise forms. The work is less a pure depiction of an idea or concept than a materialization. It is as if the illusionistically ideal space wanted to break out of the plane of the picture in order to be realized in real space; the pictures seem to grow out of the wall at times, but there is always a return to the picture plane.

Meier uses simple materials and an elementary vocabulary of forms based on constructive principles—square, rectangle, circle, straight line, and curve. With these, he creates configurations that are readable as recognizable objects, but then he adds a mediating layer of acrylic paint (in primary colors) or clear lacquer, which alters the original qualities of the basic materials used, usually wood or metal. The resulting surfaces are a combination of amorphous and clear, mat and shiny.

Most of these works also incorporate separate figures carved out of charcoal briquettes. These are semiabstract figures like idols, which, depending on the context of the work in which they appear as an element, can be interpreted as pure form that approaches the organic but also as a symbolic human figure. For example, in the wallpiece Der Stumme (The mute, 1987), the constructive part of the piece, of painted metal, appears to serve as a pedestal for the charcoal figure and at the same time creates the space through which the figure is integrated into the unity of the work. Both elements stand in clear opposition to one another, which during the act of viewing is constantly changed into a synthesis. In a group of newer paintings, such as Figur vor Grün (Figure in front of green) and Das gebrochene Blau (The broken blue), both 1987, the charcoal figure is mounted on a canvas painted with unequal rectangles (in the examples mentioned, green and yellow, or dark blue and light blue). Here, the abstract picture space becomes more readable as real space, for the charcoal figure acts as a kind of dialectical antithesis to the picture frame. As a material, the coal is inextricably linked with numerous associations that are heavy with meaning and, moreover, archaic. These associations are capable of weighing the figure down in a narrative sense and also of placing it in the background as pure form. Yet the solution to this problem seems to be indicated already in a group of charcoal drawings, 1987, for here the figure is drawn as an organic form within a constructive system of lines. The contradictory aspects of the work are on the same level of abstraction; but that probably won’t stop Meier from experimenting further with his picture objects, because he certainly won’t be satisfied with one level of abstraction. His work clearly shows that.

Max Wechsler

Translated from the German by Charles V Miller.