Berlin

Peter Pommerer

Galerie Gebauer

Without mutual trust this exhibition might not have been possible. The Galerie Gebauer left its rooms to Stuttgart artist Peter Pommerer so that he could spend three weeks filling them with large-format wall drawings—knowing full well that, given his working method, he might produce anything from rhizomatic scribbling to cross-cultural ornamentation, from children’s-room fantasies to crude configurations of bodies in the spirit of art brut. But, in the end, Pommerer controlled himself: With minimal watercolor strokes and colored-pencil lines, one room was made a sort of jungle, a second inscribed with a quote from Schiller, and the third covered with a silhouette-style frieze of penguins.

Rather than following a strict narrative form, Pommerer lets his motifs proliferate; archaic signs overlap with citations from comic strips. He creates an image-surface that does not differentiate between public space and private rumination. One comes across bathroom graffiti and crude depictions of sex—the kind adolescent boys surreptitiously scratch into school desks—right in the middle of a decorative sequence of animal-shaped arabesques. His drawings create the effect of anonymity yet always represent the triumph of an individual anarchism over social rules. It is precisely the depiction of bodies that makes Pommerer’s drawings a medium of transgression: The free-form image-world transcends the ghetto of teenage desire and floods into the gallery space—or a whole exhibition hall, as in the German Open at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg in 1999. The more fragmented and deformed the depiction, the more emphatic the libidinal energies it conceals.

Pommerer’s titles, though, reflect an almost fairy-tale, supernatural approach to reality. A wall titled Die Pest der Phantasmal (The plague of phantasms) was dedicated to the moment when drawings of dream sequences suddenly turn threatening. On the other hand, titles like Montauk or Paradiesgarten—Im Januar (Garden of paradise—in January) function as frames for pictorial motifs that are perpetually in dissolution. The narrative threads Pommerer spins out are continually picked up and dropped again. One could also say Pommerer veils his content in endless variation, in ornamental chains of signifiers. For it does, in fact, have to do with strategies of survival and power, as the Schiller quotation suggests at any rate: One must beware of tigers and lions, Schiller tells us, but the worst beast is man himself. For Pommerer in turn, this monster no longer takes any distinct form. Though the artist shows every elephant and every predator by its familiar shape, the beast “man” is alone reduced to mere caricature. In general, man seemed to disappear in the allover pattern of creatures with which Pommerer covered the rooms. Sometimes a face still peeked from the corner of the wallpaper hung on the gallery walls as a background for the drawings. But that was hardly mo re than a ghost from a strange, other reality.

Harald Fricke

Translated from German by Sara Ogger.