Hamburg

View of “Guðný Guðmundsdóttir and Jochen Lempert,” 2010. Foreground, from left: Guðný Guðmundsdóttir, P-Pferd mit Gestell, (P-Horse with Support Frame), 2010; Guðný Guðmundsdóttir, Poloturm I (Polo Tower I), 2010. Background: Jochen Lempert, Qualle (Jellyfish), 2010.

View of “Guðný Guðmundsdóttir and Jochen Lempert,” 2010. Foreground, from left: Guðný Guðmundsdóttir, P-Pferd mit Gestell, (P-Horse with Support Frame), 2010; Guðný Guðmundsdóttir, Poloturm I (Polo Tower I), 2010. Background: Jochen Lempert, Qualle (Jellyfish), 2010.

Guðný Guðmundsdóttir and Jochen Lempert

Galerie Dorothea Schlueter

View of “Guðný Guðmundsdóttir and Jochen Lempert,” 2010. Foreground, from left: Guðný Guðmundsdóttir, P-Pferd mit Gestell, (P-Horse with Support Frame), 2010; Guðný Guðmundsdóttir, Poloturm I (Polo Tower I), 2010. Background: Jochen Lempert, Qualle (Jellyfish), 2010.

Galerie Dorothea Schlueter is a newcomer on the Hamburg scene; this exhibition by Guðný Guðmundsdóttir and Jochen Lempert was only its third. The gallerist’s name is a pseudonym invented by Nora Sdun, Sebastian Reuss, and Goor Zankl, who make up the triumvirate running the space. This imaginary figurehead, with a name that in German intentionally sounds a bit square, is a statement in its own right, situating the gallery somewhere between the charm of fiction making and the elegance of ironic modesty.

In this exhibition, Dorothea Schlueter experimented with presentation as well: To accompany Icelandic artist Guðný Guðmundsdóttir’s show, the gallery asked Jochen Lempert to provide a contribution—a “background setting,” as the invitation flyer notes. The asymmetrical relationship between solo and sidekick worked out perfectly: The two artists’ standpoints, both of which involve archaisms and allusions to the natural world, differ enough to cross-pollinate without crowding. Lempert, a photo artist with a degree in biology, creates associative links between natural phenomena and uncovers surprising morphological coherences by grouping heterogeneous motifs. He was here represented with only two works, though both are enormous: Wolke (Cloud) and Qualle (Jellyfish), both 2010. Usually his pictures are hand-printed silver gelatin prints. Here, for the first time, he used a novel technique he calls grain-transfer printing to create photographs enlarged to wall-filling formats: self-sufficient, site-specific works, that also functioned, literally, as the backdrops for Guðmundsdóttir’s presentation. The grainy, soft-toned black and white typical of Lempert’s intentionally blurry prints becomes even coarser when enlarged to such a size, which makes the contours of the objects nearly dissolve into suspended particles. This treatment of the image, which also suggests the tenuousness of all forms, harmonizes well with the almost insubstantial subjects: the luminous white jellyfish that fills the entire frame of its image, and the complementary dark cloud of smoke (from Stromboli, the volcano off the coast of Sicily) floating in the sky in a vaguely mushroomlike shape.

Guðmundsdóttir’s work provided archaic, earthy contrasts to the visual context of natural ephemerality, with sculptures made of clay and grog, a ceramic raw material—Poloturm (Polo Tower) I–III, all 2010, look like abstract architectural models—as well as a twelve-part group of smaller ceramics that might be outlandish tools (Instrumente [Instruments], 2009). There were two sturdy draft horses also made of dark, grog-laden clay, P-Pferd mit Stütze (P-Horse with Prop) and P-Pferd mit Gestell (P-Horse with Support Frame), both 2010. Fragile pedestals made of blue-gray tabletops and natural wood stakes were also part of the installation. On one of the walls hung three unframed large-format drawings, Rennbahn (Racetrack) I and II and Poloturm (Polo Tower), all 2003, of which the sculptures might be seen as spin-offs. In these filigree pencil drawings with hints of blue-gray glaze, Guðmundsdóttir is working her way through an entire series of motifs based on imaginary, garlandlike, twining architectural fragments that—in apparent defiance of gravity—are peopled by tiny humans, horses, and instruments. Indeed, Guðmundsdóttir has been working on the figures, animals, and objects that populate her sparse image world for many years. Like archaeological finds from an ancient culture, they keep some of their secrets to themselves.

Jens Asthoff

Translated from German by Oliver E. Dryfuss.