Jost Münster

Museum 52

The first work in Jost Münster’s show “Ground Control” was the wall painting Bands, 2010, featuring vertical stripes of slightly different lengths running roughly from the ceiling down to knee height: a wide central black band flanked by a narrower, marginally shorter sky blue one to its right and a thin yellow line to its left, all abutting except for a section of the yellow line, which peels away from the black toward its lower end. The colors and their arrangements were evocative, gently suggestive of the street from which one had just stepped. But they were also implacably there, flat on the wall’s surface, marking its extent and its relation to you and to the rest of the room’s contents. It was not until you were farther into the room, though, that the template for Bands was revealed as a near-hidden feature of another work, Leak, 2009.

Münster borrowed the title for his show from that of journalist Anna Minton’s recent book on the growth and spread of private ownership and control over what has hitherto been public space. With its delicate color, exact placing, and formally tight though often structurally unnecessary detailing, Münster’s work registers the ironic eye with which he views the malls, business districts, and residential developments that increasingly monitor and restrict our movements. Hovering somewhere between sculptural construction and model for a late-modernist architectural folly, Leak’s open assemblage of vertical and horizontal components in wood, blockboard, and card sits on the floor, an apparent seepage of silver gray acrylic pooling around the base of its main upright element. The color of the “leak” almost exactly matched that of the paint on the wooden floor, aligning it with the gallery, but also emphasizing its status as a complex painterly surface articulated by lines and blocks of color. And then the black, blue, and yellow stripes nestling into the angle formed at the meeting of two pieces of blockboard might have pulled your attention back out to the space of the gallery and, again, to the street beyond.

Placed between Bands and Leak, resting on the floor and leaning against the wall, To the Left, 2009, was the largest work in the show. Made up of thirty-two painted rectangular plywood panels nailed to a four-part wooden frame, it presents an array of allusions to the spatial and structural details of the contemporary urban environment: the facades, the materials from which they are constructed, the rhythms of our movements between and among these buildings, the imagery we encounter as we pass by. Muted grays, blues, and yellows offer visual variety within a narrow tonal range; sparsely placed geometric shapes imply orientation, direction, and flow; lines only marginally off the rectilinear give perspective; and an almost centrally positioned trompe l’oeil loop of blue ribbon makes the piece flip back and forth between real and pictorial space.

Three other works were also wall mounted. Anlage, 2010, is as amusingly chaotic as it is carefully ordered, looking for all the world like a De Stijl wall unit reworked by the Memphis group, while Forever Young, 2009, is a pink-rimmed, flattened annulus. Things Have Changed, 2009, consists of two structures on a shelf, each no more than a couple of short lengths of wood yet intimating signage, gateway, shelter, and more. The original markings on the shelf’s upper surface have been overpainted to suggest pathways, routes across a terrain that are now obscured or disregarded, abandoned, inaccessible.

Michael Archer