Boers-Li Gallery is delighted to announcethe group exhibition, 5 X BERLIN, which presents a series of paintings by Jonathan Meese and Thomas Scheibitz, reliefs by Anselm Reyle, paperbased works by KatjaStrunz, and sculptures by Thomas Kiesewetter. The practices of these five mid-career artists foregrounded the genres that defined contemporary art in Berlin since the 1990s and continue to challenge modernist notions in the visual field.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the re-unification of the East and West,Berlin was a city replete of empty spaces and shattered housing blocks with historical eminence and symbolism. Its “ruin-chic” had an unprecedented appeal that drew many artists from outside to set up studios in the city. In the aftermath of its isolation from the Cold War, Berlin was a treasure trove of remnants of its recent past, where the “objet-trouvé” – rummaged out of the growing appeal of the “trash culture” of being poor but sexy – offered many artists the stomping ground of visual resources for their artistic practice in Germany’s new capital. Furthermore, as the city embraced its recovery with a clean slate, its art world became a melting pot for contesting artistic notions prevalent in other regions of former East and West Germany, and beyond. Among them, there were the articulated figuration traditions from the Dresdenand Leipzig School in the East, as well as the artistic conceptions developed in prominent art schools in the West, like Düsseldorf, Karlsruhe, Hamburg and Berlin itself. To which, artists attributed their personal interpretations of the social, political, and economic realities of the city into their practices. It is this diversity of artistic schools of thoughts that gave Berlin its identity of being a dynamic cultural center of the world.
Thomas Kiesewetter, educated at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin, is the most prominent sculptor among these five artists. His three dimensional abstractions are made of cast industrial materials, in particular sheet metal with its somewhat “trashy” to exemplify the visual quality of “models,” or being in the “unfinished” stage. His work process does not begin with assigning any preconceived form to the piece’s finale, instead, the artist bends and folds metallic sheets playfully, then bolts the individual pieces together before he paints them in bold colors so the final sculpture is rendered with organic coherence based on its curves and edges. Kiesewetter’s goal is not only to generate a form, but also to provoke feelings and emotions felt at different vantage points of the piece.
With their distinctive colors, Kiesewetter’s sculptures refer to constructivist and cubist elements, reminiscent of modernist architecture, as much as they make us conscious of the solidity of their single material. These anthropomorphic pieces signal that although the pathos of abstraction and its former purity requirements may not have survived, abstraction itself has.
In a similar vein, Thomas Scheibitz recognizes the impossibility of inventing new artistic forms on canvas. Yet the artist’s goal is to approximate the conception of a surprised vision by drawing from allusions, elusive visual memories and familiar images through uncanny combinations, as well as by unlocking precisely determined compositions made up of recurring figures. Representative of the acclaimed Dresden School of Arts known for its tradition in figuration, where artists like Gerhard Richterattended, Scheibitz’ steady artistic career challenges the boundary between figuration and abstraction. His work method consists of looking at visual materials in parallel, and from the pairings of these found images, magazine cutouts, architectural forms — often known as “secondary material”— he generates a haptic, or what he considers the legitimate potential for a subliminal experience. Scheibitz paintings and sculptures are glyphs fabricated from the artist’s visual repositories, which serve as substitutes for the “figurative”, magnified tectonically to create the layers and multi-dimensional visual rendition.
Given the “culture of transition” in Berlin in the 1990s, Anselm Reyle, a graduate of Staatliche Akademie der BildenenKünste Karlsruhe, developed an unmatched sophistication in his assemblages and sculptures by using striking memorabilia from “modernistic” design ubiquitously found on the streets of Berlin and its architecture in decline. Inspired by the stylistic richness of the last century, Reyle reintroduces movements as dissimilar or even contrary to each other as Informel, Hard Edge, Op Art, and Minimal, and making them disturbingly simultaneous. His forms are drawn from the aesthetics of artificial colors and poor or “trashy” materials such as tin foil, polyester film, car parts, abandoned computer parts, scrap metal wires, neon lights etc., to create glossy and reflexive surfaces, or pulsating and flashy colors encased in plexiglass. The multifarious textures of his work defiantly reject the standard for fine art with regard to surface, composition, or even the boundary between painting and sculpture. This is how the artist attempts to establish, a seemingly cheap pop-kitsch aesthetic that speaks to its social and political environment.
Riffing on postwar abstraction, Reyle pokes “contemporary” fun at formalist conceits. The artist critically reflects not only upon the prevailing codes of taste but also the sometimes, utopian ideals of modern abstraction, creating something like fun house aesthetic.
Katja Strunz’ practice in painting and sculptures is rooted in the constructivist and the avant-garde, while the artist traces life experience through recycled materials. With an interest in exploring the unfolding structures in constructivism, where both the conceptual totality and the realism of the objects are present, the artist creates sculptures and works on paper that solicit a relationship with temporality and spatiality.
The series, “Pulp Friction”, presented in this exhibition, its colors extracted from therecycled and ground fabric and clothing (second-hand, each piece with a past) in which space, time, and history are condensed on paper. The notion of free-falling, central to Strunz’ practice, encapsulates the conceptions of time and space. Here, the artist’s works captures a specific moment in its unfolding movement.
Among these five artists, Jonathan Meese compelling works of art are the most striking in their visual references and connotations. Often known for his controversial and ambiguous political statements issued through paintings, sculptures, installations, and performances, Meese’s practice is routed in the German traditions of Dada and Fluxus, drawing inspirations from artists like Joseph Beuys. His provocateur disposition and the proclamation of “Dictatorship of Art”, often walk the fine line between provocation and blasphemy, catharsis and exorcism, or personal idolization and political criticism.
Meese’s paintings, drawings, and installations, indebted to the German Neo-expressionism of the 1980s, are stylistically garish. His seemingly careless technique feigns then aivete of an enfant terrible. On his canvas, Meese applies tubes of acrylics, crayons, graphite, ink, and watercolor with complete rejection to preconceived notions of painting. His images are often collaged with found objects, original photographs of political figures (or of himself), and written as graffiti of political manifestos (or his own) in untranslatable German and English neologisms.
In presenting this group exhibition 5X BERLIN, the works of these five artists will serve as a prism into the context out of which their artistic practices emerged, and the ideological notions, in art and otherwise, that informed their enquiries on the boundaries of abstraction in relation to figuration in the post-war era. The works of these five artists have set the tone for artistic merits in the 21st century. In addition, the exhibition 5X BERLIN aspires to provide inspirations to the art world of Beijing, a city that shares many parallels, historical, cultural and political, with its German counterpart.