Anna Möller, Untitled #5, 2016, ink-jet print on paper, 12 1/2 × 18 7/8".

Anna Möller, Untitled #5, 2016, ink-jet print on paper, 12 1/2 × 18 7/8".

Anna Möller

Anna Möller, Untitled #5, 2016, ink-jet print on paper, 12 1/2 × 18 7/8".

For this show, eleven framed photographic works, Untitled #1 through #11 (all works 2016) were brought together with the installation The Great Unpaid Laborer of the World (Porcelain Rubber Dust), which consists of fragile white porcelain objects exhibited on three open-sided Plexiglas boxes, one of which was partly fitted inside another. Among the materials used to make this work, the artist listed both the titular porcelain dust and fingerprints on the transparent surfaces. This is symptomatic of her approach, for Anna Möller is preoccupied with the indeterminate.

The photographic works show black-and-white prints of varying size arranged on blank pieces of paper, the latter functioning as white spaces inserted between the images like visual pauses. These elements are all placed at different intervals, sometimes next to each other, sometimes partly covering each other, with each varied arrangement bearing witness to an open-ended visual process that the photographs record like a series of excerpts. The paper’s texture forms lines and shadows that introduce a minimal spatial depth and graphic structure into the photos, and its natural tone brings a nuanced palette of various shades of white. Many viewers do not at first realize that these pictures are in fact color photographs.

Möller works with a digital image archive, which includes both scenes she has photographed herself—and which she calls “found situations”—and pictures from magazines, books, or posters. Her subjects are deliberately disparate: They include landscapes, architectural studies, interiors, fashion images, and often mere lines and patterns appearing in buildings, fabrics, or rocks. People are rarely to be seen, and when they are, they are generally unrecognizable, abstracted into structural elements, objects, or bodies. These are images saturated with reality, yet it is almost impossible to locate any given one in a specific place. Möller creates associative connections among the pictures and blank spaces through such formal qualities as line, visual weighting, and rhythm.

One of the elements in Untitled #8 is, for Möller, unusually specific: the snow-covered monument to Giordano Bruno in the Campo de’ Fiori in Rome. (“I thought it was interesting that the face was unrecognizable,” she says.) Möller has placed beneath this photograph the image of a strange columnar rock formation, which formally paraphrases the statuesque quality of the monument. To the left of it, bordering the lower edge of the picture, is another image, in which a white fold can vaguely be seen, giving an impression of snow and tending toward abstraction. Here we encounter a subjective visual language that develops through formal associations, a lexicon that appears again in Untitled #5. Here Möller combines the image of a bent metal chain-link fence in a deserted landscape with, among other things, a picture of a much larger collapsed wall whose ribbed structure rises to form a stepped arch. The picture is taken from a newspaper and shows a border fence between Gaza and Egypt, with large numbers of people crossing over it. Near it can be seen the picture of a defaced statue, a section of a Vogue fashion photo, and the strange image of pairs of legs lying on the ground with other legs stepping over them—dancers taking a break during a Pina Bausch performance. More important, however, than knowing this is seeing how these images interrelate, here perhaps through associations of upheaval and upturned bodies.

The porcelain objects in The Great Unpaid Laborer pursue a similarly associative transformation. To make the work, Möller dipped large-format blank pieces of paper into liquid porcelain paste, bent them into irregular folds and furrows, and fired them in a kiln. The high temperatures caused the organic material to vaporize: The paper that had originally shaped and molded the forms vanished. The resulting object is a kind of plastic drawing. Möller emphasized individual folds by stretching long rubber bands between them, thus combining an “expensive” with a “cheap” materiality, conveying a sense of weightlessness and free association—a page of unwritten poetry that is both fragile and indestructible.

Jens Asthoff

Translated from German by Nathaniel McBride.