“Door Slamming Festival”


Door slamming is the ultimate stage exit, often used by emotionally wrought female characters who’ve run out of lines and yet still have something to say, like Nora in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. This international group show of both men and women—seventeen individual artists plus one duo—seems to celebrate not only the histrionics of this wordless gesture but also the complexity associated with those members of the “fairer sex” who choose to go out with a bang instead of a whimper. And how does that translate into art? The thirty-one works on display combine dramatic appearance with great attention to detail, especially in fabrication and installation. Think big and small, spectacular and delicate, eye candy and eyeliner.

Take Julian Göthe’s Appliqué I (Très Important) and Appliqué II (Très Important), both 2007, which manifest the movement between high theatrics and fine distinctions. The titles, while playing on the term for ornamental needlework and the useful, decorative ends of such popular applied arts, add the self-exaggeration “very important” parenthetically in French, the old language of diplomacy politely imploring the viewer to take notice. But the twin sculptures, hanging on the wall and jutting out into the room, are pretty hard to miss. These gaudy geometrical collages made of black metal shapes and mirrors mounted on wood are also illuminated with white strip lights. Indeed, the sculptures look like light fixtures that might adorn a ballroom or a bathroom in a European hotel chain called La Luxury. Göthe sets off the flamboyancy with a detail: A long electrical cord hangs down from each sculpture and gathers in coils on the floor before reaching the electrical plug that feeds the strip lights. Each cord—made with outmoded cloth-covered wires, black and braided together—looks like the hair of Rapunzel, waiting for a suitor to climb up and rescue her.

Nairy Baghramian tells another tale with Es ist ausser Haus (Empfangszimmer) (Off-Site [Reception Room]), 2006, a color photograph behind glass and partially encased in cement. The massive frame—and the mystery of how it hangs on the wall—grabs our attention while the blurred image of a bourgeois living room appears an afterthought, until one discovers that what look like “family” photographs sitting on a table include some familiar faces, such as Mao and Hitler. Baghramian secretly snapped her picture during a tour inside the former house of the last Shah of Iran, now a museum that displays the most contentious portraits from the Shah’s collection of diplomatic gifts.

Along with the geometric and the political, there are trashier ways to underline your point: Gerry Bibby’s After Hours: Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), 2006, is a bird’s nest–cum–sound system made out of a stereo, speakers, plastic bags, pigeon spikes, IKEA furniture, and piles of shredded print advertisements, which holds coins here and there, like a wishing well. For Arcadia I, 2007, Josef Strau hung two white T-shirts, printed with excerpts from his daily e-mails, on two found lamps and coated the stands with typist’s white-out, a corrector that computer word-processing made obsolete; if you get tired of reading the fine print on the T-shirts, you can always examine the tiny strokes of the little paintbrush.

The most striking element comes from the exhibition space itself, which is operated by Neu gallerist Alexander Schröder and his wife, Yasmine Gauster, who live upstairs above the gallery (which takes its name from its address, Mehringdamm 72 in Kreuzberg). Two pieces in the exhibition come from Schröder’s private collection: Enrico David’s wall drawing and installation Measurement of Disagreement, 2004, and Henrik Olesen’s wonderful Rechte Ecke, 2003, a plaster cast of a corner of the room, now fallen out (fainted?) and lying across the floor. The space also offers the library of the late New York gallerist Colin De Land for free consultation. Gallery or platform? Private collection or public research center? Like François Pinault, who collects, displays, and sells, Schröder seems to be exploring several roles at once. Who would have guessed that the market would take over the total work of art?

Jennifer Allen