Among the galleries in Düsseldorf opening their doors and welcoming buyers and browsers alike for Düsseldorf Cologne Open Galleries 2014 (DC Open 2014) this weekend is Galerie Hans Mayer. This well-established gallery is shaking off the summer and heading into the busy art world season with an exhibition of the sculptural assemblages and paintings of the self-taught, anti-establishment mixed-media artist C.O. Paeffgen. Here the detritus of consumerism and daily life—including wooden fruit and vegetable boxes, toys, kitschy souvenirs, tools, and even trash—may be seen transformed into surprising and highly formal sculptural assemblages; and the familiar signs and symbols of the mass media, advertising, and religion, altered by the artist’s hand and humor, may not look quite like viewers expect them to.
Among the pieces on display will be a suite of Paeffgen’s so-called “box works,” sculptures composed of brightly painted wooden fruit and vegetable boxes wired into loosely gridded arrangements. Now on view again after a hiatus of roughly two decades, these works read at once as studied explorations of the harmonies and nuances of color, shape, materials, and form, and playful elevations into art of the box, that humble workhorse of the everyday world. For other assemblages, like Der Rhein (1995-98), the artist dips into his trove of collected scraps and things, and uses yet more wire to lash them together into geometrical forms. With its thick vertical and horizontal bands, some slightly off-kilter, others gently bending, Der Rhein calls to mind bird’s-eye views of cultivated land, urban grids, or architectural structures in the process of being built or torn down. Or, perhaps, with its prominently visible mix of materials, it is a glimpse into Paeffgen’s own art-making process, which both begins and ends with the products of society and popular culture.