Andreas Schulze

Like composites, collages, or montages, Andreas Schulze’s paintings present images of radically different origins. The “real” in these works—a carton of Merit cigarettes, a pair of mirrored sunglasses, a lemon, or a lantern—are familiar objects of collective experience or memory. However, these “real” images, which belong to no one and everyone simultaneously, are removed from their familiar contexts. Thus the viewer can’t read them as references to the artist’s—or anyone’s—unique experience. Schulze has pushed “reality” into the meaningless realm of information; these collaged or montaged images spiral back toward the site of their removal, their original territory—the mundane, nonexistent everywhere. And the images in these works that are not familiar or common are similarly inscrutable. They seem to refer to an experience of the artist, but one that he chooses to keep to himself.

In Tischdecke (Tablecloth, 1988), Schulze has depicted a long table that occupies the center of a windowless room. The large table, the eclectic nature of the objects scattered across it, the change in the tablecloth—from a red-white-and-blue plaid at one end to a pattern of gold stars and flowerlike forms on a blue ground at the other—and the intriguing fun-house perspective of the entire composition all seduce the viewer into the painting’s space. The array of common, “real” objects on the table’s surface—peas, an apple, cakes, a bird, an ace of hearts, a slice of toast on a plate—do not relate to one another or to their surroundings. At the table’s center, Schulze moves out of the arena of collective memory to present a mysterious object whose source seems to lie in an incommunicable experience. It’s almost as if one of Schulze’s “real” objects has undergone a Kafkaesque metamorphosis, with the viewer given no clues as to the process or motive of this transformation.

While his depictions of the “real” are lavishly seductive, brightly colored, and presented in a popular/surrealistic manner, a limited chiaroscuro vocabulary of white, gray, and black defines Schulze’s hermetic, mysterious forms. In one untitled work from 1988, some of these mysterious, rounded forms are grouped together to form a facelike image. In others, a single, large egg-shaped form rests on a table base or is suspended above, dominating the composition. The swollen oblong with lumplike appendages at the center of Tischdecke also appears as decoration in one sculptural work in the exhibition, as a kind of ghostly apparition on a huge lampshade. Here, Schulze’s particular lamp, with its simple wooden base and white shade, is at the same time every lamp, a flash-card image or a sign for lamp, as well as a distorted metamorphosis of a lamp, enlarged and decorated with unidentifiable forms.

In his essay “The Storyteller,” Walter Benjamin grounds the disappearance of the art of storytelling in the decreasing value and communicability of our experiences and in our inability to provide counsel for others. Schulze’s works initiate narratives and then sabotage them. Is Schulze mourning the passing of the artist’s ability to communicate experience and provide counsel? Or should his adopted position of storyteller be considered a simulation of that role, a simulation that, to borrow a description from Jean Baudrillard, demands feigning the possession of what one does not possess. When experience is no longer unique, or when it is imbedded in private process, it moves into the realm of information. Schulze’s work plays with our desire to construct narratives of meaningful exchange and solace by his fragmenting of a hyperreality with bits and pieces of collective consciousness and mute, hermetic structures.

Anthony Iannacci