Manfred Pernice

Anton Kern Gallery / Storefront for Art and Architecture

In Berlin-based artist Manfred Pernice’s recent show, art disentangled itself from, and then remerged with, modular furniture: Dinged plywood benches each formed of three open cubes and positioned against a gallery wall led into more elaborate “banks” in the center of the space, some built of concrete with inset tiles, others of partially painted particleboard, scored or cut as though halfway to assembly. The show was called “Commerzbank,” after the advertisement from which Kurt Schwitters cut his famous word fragment “Merz”; meanwhile the artist calls the benches themselves “merzbanks,” punning on the German words for “bank” and “bench,” which are one and the same (die Bank). With these references, Pernice makes a move toward positioning Schwitters not as a romantic, Luddite ancestor but as a proponent of the kind of art practice that capitalizes on the alchemical transformation of

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