Michael Kunze

Dany Keller Galerie

Almost no other artist in Munich is currently igniting such sharp controversy as Michael Kunze. Some people see him as the visionary new-age protagonist, others call him a hard-core Conceptualist. In fact, his works seem virtually predestined to create misunderstandings, but they are a committed attempt to investigate new painting positions in the ’90s. “Bleibe und Ansatz” (Abode and beginning) is the title for his second solo show, which was comprised of 50 small paintings running like a frieze along the walls of the gallery. Facing the walls are five identical sculptures placed on the pillars. At first, they look like gilt chairs, but on closer inspection, these chair-shaped objects prove too frail for sitting; a gold cord, pulled down by a weight, blocks any practical use.

The paintings have as their subjects landscapes, classicist or fantastic architecture, cosmological structures, a self-portrait, textual images, and still lifes. The upper edge of every picture reproduces the same text, BLEIBE (“abode” or “remain”). This repeated element forestalls any illusionistic pictorial effect, and Kunze’s subjects thus remain artificial and based on mental constructions. They are ideal images. When Kunze copies a landscape, it is never a specific countryside or a new arcadia. Kunze’s works exert something of the suggestive power of Franz Radziwill or other German Magic Realists of the 1920s. His painting of a landscape is the epitome of the landscape, just as the same human figure in its idealized form recurs throughout his paintings. At times, Kunze quotes famous examples of 20th-century art—a painting by Piet Mondrian or an installation by Gerhard Merz. Mondrian’s esoteric geometrism and Merz’s idealistic spatial constructions offer clues to Kunze’s sensibility. One of his paintings depicts Marcel Duchamp’s bottle rack. Here, it becomes a radiant object, as if Kunze wished to clarify the aura of this work. The body is transformed into a light shape. However, Kunze does not really want to make the mysterious, the ungraspable visible. These energies merely shine through things, and we are only meant to have an inkling of them.

Justin Hoffman

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel.