Reinhard Mucha

Reinhard Mucha’s first solo show since his appearance at Luhring Augustine in New York in 1998—and his first show in Düsseldorf in twenty-three years—was both familiar and unfamiliar. He is still recycling traces of the past: Entering the gallery, one saw to one’s left a tall stack of twelve gray wooden crates containing (but also part of) unsold copies of the artist’s Edition 1991–Kreuzstück (Edition 1991–Cross Piece), 2004, and right next to them a vitrine titled Before the Wall Came Down, 2008; to the right, on the side wall, were a series of untitled oil paintings from 1986 by Mucha’s friend Helmut Dorner, and behind them, on the back wall, nine of Mucha’s exhibition posters. We read, for instance, XLIV BIENNALE, VENEDIG (Venice), 1990, KOPFDIKTATE (Head Dictations), and KASSE BEIM FAHRER (Pay the Driver), titles spelled out in clear typography on top of old blackand-white images. All are encased in glass and secured by heavy, oakcolored wooden frames that clasp the prints with disorienting forcefulness. The exhibition title “Mucha Zuhause” (Mucha at Home) was ambiguous: Were we here to see works of art? Or rather a person, born in Düsseldorf in 1950 and still living there?

Perhaps indicating the latter scenario, the next room felt like the hallway of an apartment. The walls were completely covered with prints, drawings, and photographs, many with handwritten dedications. These really did come from the home and studio of the artist. Here, too, in a regular rhythm, hung the circular, glass-covered panels of The Wirtschaftswunder, to the People of Pittsburgh, 1991, 2009, a work whose title refers to the “economic miracle” Germany experienced in the postwar era; Mucha made use of leftover brochures from the railroad supply firm Düsseldorfer Eisenbahnbedarf AG, which had once occupied the building where his studio is located.

The last small room was filled with works by artist colleagues—signed posters, watercolors, and other pieces in small, friendly formats. This was not mere self-reflection: Mucha, who is known for picking through the clods and rubble of postwar history, has lately been digging into his own past. He refuses to act as though the maelstrom of history had left him unscathed.

In another space, Mucha had set up the installation Auto Reverse, 1994–95/2009, which involved two images of children. The one on the left, black-and-white and larger than life, was a light-box transparency displaying the artist himself as a little boy, with his scooter beside the curb and his eyes tightly closed. On the right was a black-and-white film loop showing the artist’s son, perhaps two years old, tightly strapped into the child’s seat on the back of a bicycle leaning up against a railing. The sound of a child babbling surrounded these two pictures, always the same repeated syllables, “auto.” Two scooters leaned against the projector table, a metal construction propped up on both sides by added supports, between which the projector equipment was anchored with tape. Strands of wire twined their way off to the cable reel and the electrical outlet, turning this assemblage into a sort of organism made of scooters, photographs, light, electricity, and vision.

While as a child Reinhard Mucha closed his eyes to his father’s camera, as an adult he pays close attention to his son’s words and pictures. Mucha has incorporated his private life into his artistic constellation like any other contemporary document. Yet he avoids exhibitionism. This show was the precipitate of a completed experiment that shows us, behind glass, the artist himself.

Catrin Lorch

Translated from German by Oliver E. Dryfuss.