Miriam Cahn

Galerie Stampa

A series of black and white, and colored drawings hung around the walls of a single room, like a frieze of strictly chronological, individual works offering itself to be read. One could devine the process of creation without reducing the works to one narrative line that would limit the multiplicity of associations. In many pieces Miriam Cahn drew an arm with hand and fingers. Extended in a flowing movement, rising and sinking simultaneously, this isolated body part appeared as an independent entity, caught somewhere between sensual presence and material dissolution. Entire figures breathed in erotic proximity and at a distance, from the shadows. The gestural in these drawings was not the expression of internal agitation, but, rather, the trace of a physical struggle with paper. Each work was precisely dated, but this did not give the effect of the intimacy and system of a personal journal. Cahn’s use of a symbolic color system unified these drawings: blue represents women and yellow something poisonous. Only in the wake of our bombardment with images of instruments of war and technical destruction has Cahn chosen to depict a masculine face—in red.

In one sequence of stick figures, menare erect; humans and animals flee. With the media images from the former Yugoslavia, dualistic philosophy and the perspectives of political action linked to it have entered political discussion in Western Europe. Cahn, who has always considered herself politically active, marks this change by her choice of smaller formats. As in Theodor Adorno’s works in which he uses a number to refer to Auschwitz, Cahn gives this exhibition the title “Sarajevo.” By naming, Cahn sidesteps the threat of pathos. Her horrific subject does not bear the trace of psychologically motivated attempts at representation. Cahn’s act of drawing becomes an act of signification. Many of the works depict closed eyes. Her esthetic decisions—format and color—are made rapidly, just before she begins to draw, and the closing of the eyes makes the images all the more intense. “Art = commentary about the situation of the work in an absolutely subjective method.” The quote from her book Lesen im Staub (Reading in the dust, 1988) differentiates art from the art work itself. The process through which subjectivity is communicated is decisive. In earlier, large-format works, it seemed that Cahn was a physical part of the drawings. “Sarajevo” has ended this phase and placed Cahn on a new path.

Hans Rudolf Reust

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.