“It is It”

Galerie Anselm Dreher

“It is It,” a three-part exhibition, celebrates the 25th anniversary of the gallery and brings together seven artists from both Europe and the United States. In the first part of this show, Ange Leccia’s Lolita, 1988—a massive, black BMW motorcycle, with its headlight on was placed in the entrance and emitted a recording of the soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita, 1962. In combining sensual music and the motorcycle as symbol of masculinity, Leccia’s sculpture possesses all the characteristics of a bachelor machine. Lolita plots the parameters of technology, eros, and commodity esthetics at the end of the 20th century.

In the same space the series “It is It,” 1988, by Serge Kliaving, took a more critical position toward the signs and symbols of commodity esthetics in a series of six similar pictures of LIFE Magazine’s logo. Kliaving always works with the symbols of advertising and corporate identity, demythologizing and analyzing their psychological effects through his ordering and combination of them.

In another room Joseph Kosuth’s It was It No. 4, 1986, was juxtaposed to Eran Schaerf s (It’s) here, 1988. Kosuth’s work is based on a text from Freud’s The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, 1904, in which he speaks of the perceptual phenomenon of the parallelism of consciousness. Over Freud’s text, Kosuth has placed his commentary in white neon with a blue neon line, “Description of the same content twice,” and under this line appears “It was it” in white-neon letters. Schaerf s ball object displays this same self-referentiality. On the surface of a gray-lacquered ball, Schaerf has stamped “(It’s) here.” In his reduction of artistic media, he allows the viewer to glimpse the starting point of his work: through the concrete manifestation of the signified—the stamped spot of the ball—Schaerf intensifies information so that it becomes a general statement which transcends its concrete manifestation.

In the third room works by Clegg & Guttmann, Louise Lawler, and Fritz Balthaus were installed. Clegg & Guttmann’s large-format photograph Matrimonial Portrait 1986, depicts a New York couple who collects art in a precise, subtly lit composition. The portrait is so idealized that the couple resembles royalty. Lawler’s photograph Vacuum Cleaner, 1988, shows an exhibition space in need of renovation and cleaning. Although the picture—at-the center of which is a vacuum cleaner—at first glance appears to be an everyday situation, the lighting is reminiscent of that in Romantic painting, and the vacuum cleaner of the title references art history from Max Ernst to Jeff Koons. Balthaus’ three-part photograph develops the idea of a space for perception from the Gothic period to the present. The three photographs show a monstrance, a golden Leica from the ’20s, and the enlargement of a perforated strip of film. The size of the perforations corresponds exactly to the opening of the Leica’s lens and to the round container for the host at the center of the monstrance. The idea of perforating film goes back to the German engineer Konrad Zuse who, in 1936, used perforated film to power his first computer. In this work, Balthaus describes a spiritual process from Christianity to the computer age.

Peter Funken

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.