Ernst Caramelle

Nationalgalerie / Museum Haus Lange

The young Austrian artist, Ernst Caramelle, who frequently camouflages his identity behind “falsified” autobiographies, managed to “conceal” his work at the most visible place in the famous Mies van der Rohe edifice: the glass facade of this light-flooded pavilion. White rectangular fields, painted directly on the windows from ceiling to floor, transformed the glass wall into a rhythmic strip of transparent and opaque zones, alternately blocking or framing the view from indoors. From outdoors, the alterations suggested a projection of the internal spatial organization upon the two-dimensional glass skin. Seldom has this historic building been subject to such complex and subtle scrutiny. The interior, with its movable walls and the collection, was left unaltered, furthering an esthetic consideration of the functionality of this controversial space.

Caramelle simultaneously mounted an exhibition at van der Rohe’s Haus Lange in Krefeld. Along with murals inserted into the spatial dynamic of this villa (which was originally designed as a residence), he also showed conceptual small-format gesso cartoons and photo-silk screens; a set of highly original light works produced by bleaching light-sensitive paper; and “lightweight” draw-ings. There was also a glass case containing publications, which Caramelle always includes as equivalent “originals” in his installations; he offered them here as a virtual reprise of a 1987 group show in the same space. Caramelle has a world of scattered ideas; living in a suitcase, they are formulated more as a nonmaterial life-style than as single works. Here, that world is focused in one place, yet it bespeaks a larger position that is both negotiable and ephemeral.

Although Caramelle did not employ specifics relating to the history and function of the two van der Rohe buildings per se, the murals managed to initiate a fundamental dialogue with these cornerstones of modern architecture. Caramelle exposed Mies’ rationalistic and dynamic architecture as an irrational game of spatial illusions, in which interior walls that serve no structural function are defined as images and the windows as picture frames.

Markus Brüderlin

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel.