Michel Majerus

One finds in the work of the young German painter Michel Majerus an array of disparate images and gestures—everything from colorful brushstrokes and blank surfaces to grinning cartoon faces and dark, morose scribbles. Given the abundance of visual imagery, it is almost impossible to form a coherent impression of the work. For his recent show Majerus installed thirty rectangular paintings in five rows so that one wall was entirely covered from floor to ceiling; he also installed four paintings in two rows, one above the other, on the opposite wall.

The paintings featured a face from a comic book, stripes, floating green bubbles, grids, nervous red brushstrokes, and various abstract shapes in a wide array of colors. These hinted at a plethora of pop and art-historical references including Donald Duck, Willem de Kooning, Warhol’s flowers, Georg Baselitz, monochrome painting, Nintendo’s Super Mario, and the Toy Story character “Woody.” Rummaging and burrowing in the recesses of our collective memory, the artist retrieves bits of information to deploy in his paintings, making no distinction between what might be considered “high” or “low.” He doesn’t, in fact, seem to use any kind of ordering principle, nor does he demonstrate an aesthetic or ideological position—and it is this open-endedness that ultimately distinguishes his work.

As was the case with Majerus’ two previous shows, it almost seemed inappropriate to describe this installation as a collection of paintings; it seemed more accurate to say that these eclectic works created environments that animated the entire space by extending, with their gigantic formats, over the walls, crawling along the floor, and filling the surfaces of the ceiling. Despite their heterogeneity they demonstrated a remarkably authoritative presence.

Noemi Smolik

Translated from the German by Vivian Heller.