Adrian Schiess

At the last Documenta, Adrian Schiess’ “flat works” were installed in the windows of temporary buildings. Schiess avoids any traces of personal style by using an industrial method to paint his surfaces. Painted on aluminum plates with automobile enamel, in a finely tuned monochrome, these works pointed to the pragmatics of hanging paintings. The standard stretcher is related to the size of the human body. Seen close-up, the area of color exceeds the viewer’s field of vision and makes an overview impossible. In so doing, it exacerbates the tendency of paintings to spread into infinity.

Though the eye is either trapped by the surface of these works or slides into the surrounding architecture, Schiess’ pieces seem more ephemeral than easel paintings. They can become fields of color on the floor, or as they lean against the wall they can create a passageway. The order of the colorful plates follows the architectural structure. Schiess attempts to create a viewing experience that neither hinders the body’s movement nor focuses the gaze on the essential. Through this examination of the possibilities of variation in painting, Schiess shows changes in color through light and through its proximity to other colors.

Schiess displayed these “flat works” with photographs and gestural watercolors. By gluing them directly to the wall, each piece lost its autonomy and the whole room be- came a painting. Occasional tears on the edges disturbed the hierarchies of composition. The photographs of various colored surfaces were an additional element of color. As color was transformed in space and time, the spectator was able to view the color fields in changing light. Though the concern with delimiting color in space has always been connected to German Romanticism, Schiess avoids mere utopian fantasies by referencing the status of painting itself, his use of many media acting only as a reflection on this much-beleaguered genre.

Hans Rudolf Reust

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.