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Marco Poloni

Chausseestrasse 116
November 28–February 27

Marco Poloni, #12 Cadaver of Roberto Quintanilla in morgue, Hamburg, 1971, found photograph, wallpaper, 27 1/2 x 79".

Lest we forget, Marco Poloni demonstrates that global networks existed far before the Internet. The artist visualizes a sordid tale of murder among 1960s and ’70s radicals, in his current exhibition linking key political figures from Germany, Italy, and Bolivia. A potted prickly-pear cactus inscribed with the word “COIDADU,” Sardinian for “attention,” greets visitors at the entrance to the exhibition. Pinned to the wall above is a black-and-white photograph of two jovial-looking men playing ball: Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Italian Communist publishing mogul Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. The nostalgic image sets the stage for a mapping of historical personages through text, photographs, and 16-mm film narrating the case studies of The Pistol of Monika Ertl, 2013–14, and The Orgosolo Laboratory Project, 2015, the latter of which is further represented by videos, slide projections, booklets, and artifacts.

Using archival material, Poloni investigates the enigma of Bolivian colonel Roberto Quintanilla Pereira’s death at the hands of Monika Ertl, a radicalized member of the leftist National Liberation Army and daughter of former Nazi sympathizer and cinematographer Hans Ertl. As investigations later revealed, the murder, meant to avenge Quintanilla’s execution of Che Guevara in the Bolivian jungle, was committed with a gun belonging to Feltrinelli.

Reproductions of documentary photographs of cadavers and coffins, such as #12 Cadaver of Roberto Quintanilla in morgue, Hamburg, 1971, and film clips from field studies such as #F02 Monika Ertl playing with a piranha, from Hans Ertl’s film “Hito Hito” on an ethnographic expedition in Bolivia, 1958, are shown alongside comparative images of human and piranha skulls. Notwithstanding his forensic and encyclopedic focus on his subjects, Poloni reminds us of our limited ability to comprehend the past. The images in these cases become anecdotes in a story much larger and more complex than the facts alone can profess.

Arielle Bier

Michel Verjux

schönleinstrasse 5
January 15–March 12

Michel Verjux, Face à face/à revers (source au sol), 2016, projector and light, dimensions variable.

You walk up a flight of stairs to access the gallery and as you enter, you are nearly blinded: this is Face à face/à revers (source au sol) (Face to face/to back [ground source]) (all works 2016) by Michel Verjux. A circle of white light is projected onto the same wall as the entrance, and when the door is opened to allow visitors in, the circle breaks and the light projects into the hallway or onto you as you walk into and through it.

Verjux makes sculptures with light. Nothing else is needed. Is this a reduced means of expression? No: With a circle, one can say everything. A circle, after all, infers completion, and what is more complete than something whose very materiality is disputed, a thing whose thingness is compromised, that is simultaneously present and not?

There are only two works in this exhibition. Go into the next room to find the second one, Poursuite rasante et frontale, mur/sol/mur (source au sol) (Next boring and frontal, wall/ground/wall [ground source]). This circle has been smeared all over a wall. Its projector has been set up in the corner, angled so that the light does not go straight across the room as it does in the first work but instead sluttishly rubs itself against the wall it parallels. Verjux’s spheres call attention to the emptiness of the spaces they fill, igniting all sorts of Beckettian sentiments. It requires a lot of courage to say nothing so brightly.

Travis Jeppesen

Markus Bacher

Am Kupfergraben 10
January 15–March 5

Markus Bacher, “Vagabond”, 2015, acrylic and oil on linen and canvas, 71 x 103".

Markus Bacher’s latest exhibition consists of five large-scale multipaneled paintings. The most successful of these is the triptych “Vagabond” (all works 2015), with a reduced palette of mainly black and white. In the center, an Edvard Munchian splatter-smear of a figure frowns haltingly against a background blur—the smoke of a hostile crowd? It would fit the painting’s overall heavy existential burden. The other two panels are abstract, as they tend to be chez Bacher; the larger one on the left is a white powdery peach with a grimace of yellow and two black stripes on the bottom while the smaller right-hand panel is a haze of black-green.

Elsewhere, “Stars ’n Stripes in the Mohave”, 2015, allows an avalanche of blues and browns and reds to predominate in the central panel. The right panel breaks the flow completely, leaving the canvas blank save for the sporadic application of multicolored dab-dots. The left panel has been painted white with just a tiny smudge of color, as if to suggest a scream from the central panel breaking through the light.

There seems to be an emerging army of young painters engaged in abstract figuration, and while these paintings might not show the imaginative pizzazz of, say, a Winston Chmielinski, Bacher’s serious engagement with the tradition of muddlement can’t be discounted.

Travis Jeppesen