Rosemarie Trockel

KUNSTHAUS BREGENZ
Karl-Tizian-Platz
January 24–June 4

View of “Rosemarie Trockel,” 2015.

This show’s title, “Märzôschnee ûnd Wiebôrweh sand am Môargô niana më” (Snow in March and Women’s Pain Disappears the Day After), while cryptic, is much like the other citations present in much of Rosemarie Trockel’s work. If this artist has underlined, for over three decades, the fact that people are not defined by biology so much as by personal perspectives, her point is driven home here with a panoply of allusions and projections.

On the first floor, neatly hung Photoshop collages are superimposed in two registers, (re)framing bodily forms and blending characters from Trockel’s entourage with patterns and aspects of materiality. Their concrete frames simultaneously merge with and stand out against the gallery’s grège walls. One floor above, Trockel criticizes Minimalism via striped knitting pieces displayed, as if for an absent audience, on knee-high sofa-like sculptures resting upon rugs. The carpets’ layout forms an angle that is accentuated by another work: a low table-like sculpture supporting rectangular ceramic pieces, partly covered by a black rag.

In the top-floor gallery, earlier ceramic works cut striking figures within a series of white moldings underpinned by a thin metal stand; the work’s title, Avalanche, 2008, seems to evoke snowy Austrian landscapes. Meanwhile, in The Critic, 2015, the wax figure of a young girl wearing huntsman garb, placed beside a dusty easel, remodels specific traditional clothing. Viewers are left to decide whether to see her as Trockel’s alter ego or to take her as their own role model.

Gabrielle Schaad

Krüger&Pardeller

21ER HAUS
Arsenalstraße 1
November 20–June 26

View of “Krüger&Pardeller: Homo Faber,” 2014.

On a communicative collision course, the duo of Krüger&Pardeller—artists Doris Krüger and Walter Pardeller—allow not only different artistic fields of action but also different times and biographies as well as formal and material languages to crash into one another in their solo exhibition. In their installation titled Homo Faber, 2014, they juxtapose their own practice with the work of one of the most important Austrian sculptors of the twentieth century, Fritz Wotruba. The concept of “homo faber,” articulated by Hannah Arendt in The Human Condition as a question of that being who actively participates in his environment, thereby changing and shaping it, serves as a connecting thread between these two bodies of work. Central not only to Arendt’s theory but also to Krüger&Pardeller’s is the time and labor of artistic production.

In this extensive installation a stage set displays their works, including a photographic wallpaper piece, within a system of partition walls, pedestals, platforms, and varied sightlines. Added to that are the sculptures of Wotruba, such as the bronze-cast Kleine stehende Figur (Small Standing Figure), 1961, in the interior space of the installation, or the bronze Sitzender (Seated Subject), 1946–47, in the exterior space. The individual elements of Homo Faber are connected on a conceptual level via Arendt and through an ephemeral soundscape that fills and permeates the space, amplifying the voice of Wotruba himself, who speaks about the idea of artistic production as a “moral principle” and as “resistance.” Wotruba’s archives happen to be housed in this venue, and Krüger&Pardeller discovered this sound document in the archive, had it digitized, and have embedded it as a point of departure for their own self-reflexive and critical sculptural praxis.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.

Franz Thalmair

Milan Grygar

PRAGUE CITY GALLERY
Mariánské Square 98/1(entrance from Valentinská Street)
December 17–April 5

Milan Grygar, Tactile Drawing, 1978. Performance View, the OFF-OFF Festival, Ghent, 1987.

The hands and legs of a seated performer burst through a wall of white paper, while a board balanced on his lap bore various utensils. Invisible to his view, his hands applied black paint to the paper’s surface within a constrained range of motion. The result: fingerprints, blurs, and smudges.

Slovenian artist Milan Grygar performed this work, creating what he calls a “tactile drawing,” for the first time in 1966. In the ensuing half century, Grygar, who trained as a painter, has dedicated himself to the relationship between sound and image. He has replaced paint wherever possible with sonic elements, interrogated the duration of a line, drawn with sticks, and integrated windup toys that leave noisy traces in his “mechanical drawings.” Grygar incorporates the acoustic frequencies that emerge during art making, but he also writes visual scores that musicians can interpret. His art is not far from the work of Morton Feldman and John Cage.

This comprehensive retrospective at the National Gallery in Prague also brings together Gyrgar’s most recent periods of production, with his paintings from the 1980s—large-format black-and-white paintings that visually conjure fields of sonic resonance—his “Antiphones” series, and the abstract object-scores on paper he has produced since 2012. Also on view is an assortment of technical equipment which contributes to the experience, drawing the eyes and ears of visitors. With luck, the exhibition will contribute to the recognition of an artist whose vanguard experiments and aesthetic merits deserve not only to be shown in contemporary-art institutions worldwide but also to be appreciated in the context of the new music scene.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.

Angela Stief

Joachim Koester and E.B. Itso

GALLERI NICOLAI WALLNER
Ny Carlsberg Vej 68
March 6–April 18

View of “Joachim Koester and E. B. Itso,” 2015.


Joachim Koester’s exhibition is a meditative yet visceral exploration of that ambiguous distance between the banal and mysterious, through photographs, videos, and installations. This show is named after a concept from the work of Wilhelm Reich and refers to the history and potential embedded in every bodily expression. This is visualized most tangibly in the short video The Place of Dead Roads, 2013, inspired by a William S. Burroughs western novel. In the video, four modern cowboys partake in spasmodic shoot-outs with invisible enemies. The action takes place within a dusty, boarded-up interior, which is powerfully re-created in the gallery as an eerily lit, secret space that can only be reached by entering a two-story wooden shack seamlessly attached to a gallery wall. Koester’s probing of the possibilities of the overlooked, whether it be an ordinary physical gesture or an abandoned site, also creates a symbiotic dialogue with fellow Danish artist E. B. Itso’s work, which focuses on peripheral spaces and the borderlines of polite society.

Itso’s parallel show considers criminal subculture and its attendant elements of surveillance and secrecy. Carl August Lorentzen’s Escape, 2014, for instance, is a grainy 1950s Danish police video that meticulously reconstructs a prisoner’s escape plan, playing on a small television in a tiny, cell-like space. Cardboard boxes are unassumingly scattered in the next gallery, of the exact size that inmates once used to try to ship themselves out of jail, but the link to a criminal underworld is initially masked by their formal ubiquity, just as one has to take the time to notice that the shack that sits behind the boxes—Itso’s Untitled (Hut), 2015—is an entrance to Koester’s mysterious otherworld.

Kerry Greaves

Simon Ling

BERGEN KUNSTHALL
Rasmus Meyers allé 5
February 27–April 5

Simon Ling, Untitled, 2011, oil on canvas, 48 x 72".

In this survey of British painter Simon Ling’s output from the past half decade, Untitled, 2011, is part of a series that depicts a concrete foundation overgrown with patches of moss and grass, somewhere in the English countryside. The painting is a minute close-up of its subject, and such a scale suggests Ling’s interaction with it, both intellectually and physically. Fittingly, it was also featured in this venue’s previous exhibition “The Noing Uv It,” which speculated about the dynamics between objects, their portrayal, and the world.

The artist often examines urban landscapes, particularly those where he works in East London, and in this exhibition, various pieces depict the area’s surroundings—for example, fragments of facades, especially shop fronts, are often pictured. A striking aspect of these images is his rendition of retail-store signs in monochrome. This introduction of abstract elements into the predominantly representational compositions for which Ling is known complicates his practice. Such stylistic devices echo other key series here, including his still lifes, of which Untitled, 2012, featuring arrangements of discarded articles in a molded-plastic box, is a prominent example.

Elsewhere, Untitled, 2014, shows a building and two cars parked in the road with the rear part of one of the vehicles missing. Ling employs a combination of studio-based and en plein air techniques in his approach here, and the painting portrays a time lapse corresponding to the transient existence of the automobile in that particular location. This engagement with perception, rooted in a tension between looking and seeing, highlights a relationship between things and the mind that traverses both his and the preceding exhibition’s themes.

Miguel Amado

Louise Bourgeois

PEDER LUND
Tjuvholmen allé 27
January 31–April 25

Louise Bourgeois, Untitled, 2004, fabric and stainless steel, 19 x 12 x 12".

Tit and phallus are much the same. For instance, consider how both offer the purifying comforts of a white liquid substance rich in life-giving protein, nurturing our anguished doubts and returning us to an ideal, infantilized state. Those life-giving parts become the landscape of a series of watercolors on paper by Louise Bourgeois on view in this exhibition, all produced late in her life, circa 2003 and 2004. These breast-cocks are hills, and their only texture is dots, unhurriedly applied.

Add to that the pregnant belly, as there are also two sculptures—one untitled, the other Pregnant Woman, 2003—included here. The latter is made of flesh-pink fabric and placed upon a stainless-steel platform. Armless, the woman becomes an alarming phallus, her sagging butt cheeks resonating with her breasts in front. The untitled work, 2004, is another pregnant body, but rendered in a much rougher fabric—it looks like candle wax or oatmeal until you get close and notice the anarchic stitching. The wild, gestural seams turn her into a punishment talisman, as if she were being penalized for being pregnant, or for being a woman. Bourgeois understood the place in which female artists have traditionally been confined: “A woman has no place as an artist until she proves over and over that she won’t be eliminated,” she once stated. Her art is its own kind of war, then, a battle against the forces that attempt to consolidate the self—feminine or other—in all its unruliness.

Travis Jeppesen

Art & Language

MUSEU D'ART CONTEMPORANI DE BARCELONA (MACBA)
Plaça dels Angels, 1
September 19–April 12

Art & Language, 100% Abstract, 1968, felt-tip pen on paper, 17 x 14".

The exhibition “Uncompleted,” featuring the artist group Art & Language, is indescribable in the truest sense of the word: in part because the group’s members—ranging from Terry Atkinson to Michael Baldwin—have produced multifaceted work so heterogeneous as to elude classification to the greatest possible extent. But indescribable is also an apt descriptor because, since the end of the 1960s, the collective’s artistic practice has been based on discursive, theoretical, and thus largely linguistic activities, such that one can only reproduce, in fragments, the concepts that artwork by Art & Language—which locates art’s foundations in the act of writing—expresses and persistently reopens to discussion.

With five hundred works, the pleasantly spacious exhibition offers a broad survey of the entire production of Art & Language, ranging from publications, documents, ephemera, and rare books to sculptures, installations, and paintings. At the show’s center are large-scale groups of works, such as Index 02 (Bxal):Indexical Fragments 6, 1974. An entire space is dedicated to the magazine Art-Language (first published in 1969), which functioned simultaneously as a platform and tool for collaborative fields of action and as a promoter of art concepts and transporter of ideas. In this journal—which is exhibited in poster-size reproductions on the walls of the exhibition and at original scale in display cases—it becomes clear that Art & Language was not concerned with the programmatic justification of its own artistic production but rather with the articulation of a completely theoretical approach and an entirely new and self-contained artistic domain.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.

Franz Thalmair