Basel

Anselm Stalder

Kunsthalle Basel

Anselm Stalder’s installation here was both ambitious and enigmatic. Any fixed, impervious borders between the art work and its surroundings dissolved in an interplay between the interior and the exterior. The transparency of the objects themselves revealed a dense network of relationships between organic and crystalline forms, solid and liquid aggregates. In the first room, the visitor was welcomed by Die Begleitung (The companion, 1988), several figures made of twisted iron rods and wires. On the head, arms, or trunk, small plaster laminas, resembling synapses, appeared at intervals to form a compact, but fragmentary epidermis, making the figures’ skeletal character all the more distinct. Corresponding architecturally to Die Begleitung was Palazzo di vetro con quattro piani per la memoria (Glass palace with four floors for memory, 1988). This object, which resembled a vitrine, was cut off from the outside by glass panes. Yet because one could peer through them into the inside of the palace, they looked like membranes—comparable to the plaster laminas of Die Begleitung—with a shaft of light running through the vitrine as if it were a spine.

The “palace” was surrounded by a series of watercolors which varied the theme of transparency. Cross-sections of plants, landscapes, and the human organism revealed complex circulatory patterns, which were kept in motion by liquids. Painting—especially with watercolors—uses liquid materials that enable the artist to see contrasts, revealing objects’ juxtapositions to one another. In the watercolors here, subject matter is in an almost cheerful state of suspension; by contrast, the oil paintings seemed mournful and melancholy. There is, however, no discernible narrative in them, for the countless layers of glazing have made them almost abstract. They are nonetheless aggressive and irresistible in that through them the viewer becomes a voyeur of the intimate scenes Stalder depicts.

Stalder’s installation is a calculated labyrinth. Its culmination is Wohnung für den Doppelgänger (Home for the double, 1988). The walls consist of chain link, with wire drawings woven like wreaths into the meshes. They seem both far and near at once, as if one were looking through a window curtain. Stalder first used this “double” five years ago; it seems to be the artist himself, the architect and his companion, the sorcerer’s apprentice. Meanwhile, the systematic juxtaposition of sculpture and painting has produced Die Verdoppelung der Möglichkeit (A doubling of potential), a concept which is also this installation’s title.

Anne Krauter

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel.