Michael Krebber

Galerie Daniel Buchholz

Michael Krebber’s works—comprising not only painting but also artist’s books, arrangements of readymades, and texts—might be identified as symptoms of a diffidence that is interrupted only temporarily, in order to produce material effects, but without allowing for artistic progress. Formats, procedures, and references recur only to continually suspend development. To borrow the terminology of literary scholar Joseph Vogl, one might designate Krebber’s stance as a veritable “system of hesitation” that results in a “specific limbo” in which “opposing forces” simultaneously motivate and block one another. This is not indecisiveness, but rather an “active gesture of questioning” that accompanies and reflects on a culture of work and deed in the manner of a “cutthroat opponent.”

Krebber’s system of hesitation finds its paradigmatic form in tentative painterly markings, as in the case of Miami City Ballet I–III, 2010, three canvases primed decades ago to which the artist applied black enamel paint only when the opening of his eponymous show at the Berlin branch of Galerie Daniel Buchholz was imminent. The paint seems intended to take over the white surfaces, but abruptly stops before any image or even the impression of deliberate activity can arise. Krebber arranged the show counterintuitively, with the largest works in the gallery’s smallest rooms and vice versa (such as two modestly scaled works called INT, 2010, sliced-up customized surfboards installed serially, Donald Judd style, incompletely displayed on the floor and wall in the most spacious salon). Consequently, the view of Miami City Ballet IV, 2010, which recalls recent work by Merlin Carpenter, was blocked by I Can Be Rented, 2010, a pedestal-like cube-shaped sculpture covered with fabric that, in terms of both materials and pattern, calls to mind works by Krebber’s wife, Cosima von Bonin. Nearby, a trio of small canvases leaned stacked against the wall, draped in a brown cloth with yellow polka dots that—as if to unite them somehow with the other two pieces in the room—were also marked with black paint. In the next room, three neon signs (à la Cerith Wyn Evans) were displayed on the floor, still in their open packing cases. Their titles, Die Hundejahre sind vorbei (Broken Neon I–III), 2010, pay tribute to Martin Kippenberger’s 1987 group show “Broken Neon,” in which Krebber participated. Additionally, the title’s declaration that “the dog years are done” would appear to triumphantly announce the irrevocable end of Krebber’s deprivation-filled years of apprenticeship (for instance, as an assistant to Markus Lüpertz and Kippenberger). But this manifesto of a newfound artistic sovereignty cancels itself out, since the overabundance of references to Krebber’s biography proves the artistic figures that both haunt and—despite all the hesitation—facilitate his social context and his own practice to be ineluctable. The beginning of these seemingly never-ending “dog years” is marked by Das Politische Bild (The Political Picture), 1968/2010, painted, no doubt under the influence of Jörg Immendorff, when Krebber was fourteen and had apparently just awoken to militant consciousness; Krebber had torn up the picture, but has now reassembled it. This apparent gesture of reconciliation with his own persona is, however, no less plagued by hesitation than anything else. In the press release, tellingly the most original part of the show, Krebber states for the record that criteria of good or bad art do not matter; it is enough for him to declare himself an artist. He qualifies this, however, by adding that he will “of course endeavor to regulate dosing so as not to drown out the pictures that I list.” Hesitation, as Vogl argues, marks an ellipsis “that returns the dramatic action . . . to the zero point and revises its constitutive force.”

André Rottmann

Translated from German by Oliver E. Dryfuss.