Bunny Rogers

SOCIÉTÉ
Genthiner Strasse 36
July 24–September 21

Bunny Rogers, Clone State Bookcase, 2014, mixed media, 97 x 121 1/2 x 24”.

In her latest exhibition, “Columbine Library,” Bunny Rogers refers to the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Dark subjects aren’t new for Rogers: Themes such as lost innocence, angst at the end of childhood, and untimely death frequently inhabit her practice, in which she navigates chat rooms, gaming communities, and other online activities designed for but not exclusively used by prepubescent girls. Her own preteen obsessions, particularly with Neopets, often appear in her work—cutiefied artifacts from a life lived online.

Clone State Bookcase (all works 2014), a replica of a Columbine High bookcase, is stocked with plush dolls of singer-songwriter Elliott Smith, the tormented musician who succumbed to addiction and depression in 2003. Black ribbons embossed with an image of a bull are draped from the shelves (Smith had a Ferdinand the Bull tattoo on his arm). Opposite, Clone State Chairs features two velvet backpacks bearing cartoon characters—Joan of Arc of Clone High and Gaz of Invader Zim—on two chairs joined at an angle. Seven vestiges in Self Portraits on a wall cast the artist as a digital character.

A video installation spread across two rooms shows a digital animation of Joan of Arc and Gaz in the reimagined loci of the massacre, the high school’s library and cafeteria, reading from Rogers’s collected poems, Cunny Poem Vol. 1, dubbed in her own sticky, affectless voice. The net of references to Rogers’s universe of motifs (wilted flowers, ribbons, joint chairs, fan articles) can intrigue or alienate. We’ve entered a stage where the performance is always on, fusing online and IRL, and coalescing meticulous theatrics with crushing candor.

Hili Perlson

Otto Piene

NEUE NATIONALGALERIE
Potsdamer Straße 50
July 17–August 31

DEUTSCHE BANK KUNSTHALLE
Unter den Linden 13/15
July 17–August 31

Otto Piene, The Proliferation of the Sun (Die Sonne kommt näher), 1966–67, mixed media, dimensions variable.

This retrospective of works by the late Otto Piene, titled “More Sky,” spans two institutions and includes his early drawings and paintings from the 1950s as well as an assembly of rotating light sculptures from the ’60s and ’70s at the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle. On July 19, three air sculptures, including Berlin Superstar, 1984, were also launched for one night atop Mies van der Rohe’s austere Neue Nationalgalerie. However, the most impressive of these restagings was Piene’s immersive, twenty-five-minute slide performance, Die Sonne kommt näher (The Proliferation of the Sun),1966–67. Now housed on the ground floor of Mies van der Rohe’s glass-encased structure and screened at night, the work is a vivid digital projection of 1,120 hand-painted color slides onto several large, diaphanous screens clustered in the hall. Speakers placed throughout the space play a recording of a young Piene directing projectionists, with the hum and clang of analog carousel projectors audible in the background. Round, abstract shapes multiply on every visual register with increasing speed and intensity, culminating in his incessant repetition of the words, “the sun, the sun….”

Completed a decade after his 1957 cofounding of ZERO—the German postwar artistic group that sought to carve out a new space for art in the wake of World War II—Piene’s multimedia creation casts the sun as the future. However, it’s a strange reversal of the Russian Futurist’s 1913 opera Victory over the Sun, in which the fiery sphere of light represents the historical past that must be vanquished. One cannot help but wonder if the strict dichotomy the artist sought to introduce between the lights of Allied aircraft and his subsequent technocratic spectacles was ever entirely successful. Despite Piene’s resolute desire to break free from the nation’s history and the legacy of that war, its hold on his practice—exemplified by the unfurling of his 1972 Olympic Rainbow, a 2,400-foot-long, helium-filled air sculpture at the closing of Munich’s Olympic Games shortly after the Black September attacks—would seem inescapable. These odd historical entanglements are what makes this exhibition so timely.

Alena J. Williams

Reinhard Mucha

SPRÜTH MAGERS | BERLIN
Oranienburger Straße 18
May 2–August 30

View of “Reinhard Mucha, Frankfurter Block,” 2014.

The centerpiece of Reinhard Mucha’s solo show at Sprüth Magers is the installation Frankfurter Block [2014], 2012, so named because it first appeared at Frankfurt’s Galerie Grässlin, where it occupied a space that has been loosely recreated for the current Berlin iteration. This embedding of a work’s exhibition history within that work itself, such that the two become inseparable, is characteristic of Mucha’s oeuvre, which is often obtuse and self-referential. The eleven works in the show, some of which date as far back as 1981, feel like clues or bits of a narrative that, by design, never quite coalesce into anything concrete and knowable. What exactly is a viewer to make of vitrines filled with thick, sealed envelopes addressed to the artist himself? Or walls of framed photocopied coupons? Or any of a number of oblique nods to fellow Düsseldorfer Joseph Beuys, including a rolled felt blanket, Braunkreuz-like smears of paint in a set of drawings, the use of the vitrine as a framing device, and the application of the term “Block” to describe the complex of assembled works?

If it all sounds a little dry, it is. But the heady Conceptualism of Mucha’s enigmatic self-construction in Frankfurter Block is balanced by the formal intrigue of his familiar wall-mounted sculptures, which appear in the installation as well as in the adjacent gallery. Titled after provincial German towns, the sculptures, all dating between 2007 and 2014, are hulking glass-faced assemblages of recycled industrial material and pieces of furniture. The layers of each work have a specific history and subtly allude, as some have noted, to various aspects of Germany’s traumatic past. But considered on their own, freed of the weight of press release detail, they are equally compelling as masterful studies in surface, depth, texture, composition, and ultimately, gestalt.

Andrea Gyorody

Zofia Kulik

ZAK | BRANICKA
Lindenstrasse 34-35, Third Floor
June 26–September 13

Zofia Kulik, Instead of Sculpture: Lady Halina and Cones (detail), 1968-71, ink jet print, 18 x 12”.

Filmic images do not function as representations of external phenomena, observed philosopher Gilles Deleuze in his key study on cinema. These images are instead concrete realities of movement and time. Strictly speaking, Zofia Kulik’s latest solo exhibition, “Instead of Sculpture – Sequences 1968-71,” doesn’t feature film or sculpture, but a body of early photographs. Filmic registers suffuse these works, however, and serve to interrogate both the classical genre of sculpture and its gendered tradition.

Among photographs of objects and materials, as in Bundle Tower, a three-part series depicting a formless heap of gray, wooly thread with protruding paper scrolls (all works 1968–71), the artist’s photo sequences of a middle-aged woman in states of undress are conceptually and affectively the strongest. Instead of Sculpture: Lady Halina and Cones, for instance, pictures a model in a bikini and sunglasses sitting with crossed-over arms on a chair. The first image of the smiling woman feels personal and yet somewhat awkward, like an intimate snapshot of someone only distantly known. Followed by a sculpture of the model’s naked body, upon which a string of yellow paper cones has been placed, the series progresses with shots of Lady Halina’s body bending and turning as if prompted to move by the cones covering it. Kulik stages the female body to become a sculptural prop—a malleable, soft object. But here, there is not only a smooth surface made to last, but a living and aging body. Her model’s skin, like human celluloid, has recorded the passage of time.

Jenny Nachtigall