In the solo exhibition Bluff Manners Berlin-based artist XOOOOX provides a deep insight into his current work. Visitors are presented with a distillate of the last two years during which XOOOOX has reduced his mediums to acrylic and spray paint. The exhibition can be divided into three work series and once again underlines the artist’s outstanding diversity. What each of the series has in common is the act of strongly kinetic painting, be it priming backgrounds for the stencils, blackening surfaces or quick gestures with the spray can. The technique of this painter, who approaches the canvas without a paintbrush, intuitively spreads the color with his bare hands, wanders around a horizontally-mounted canvas, is reminiscent of works of abstract expressionism, the likes of Robert Motherwell and Franz Kline who also based the effects of their work in a very strongly physically act of painting.
The Black Paintings draw their strength from the negation of the canvas as a limiting space and deletion the existing through blackening. Simultaneously, they steer the focus to details, a typeface or they create contours as an image in negative. As a consequence of conscious overpainting, his work gains a temporal level into which the earlier motifs disappear or through which they call out to be remembered as a dim sheen from beneath. Scratching yet newer motifs on top of the supposed “final state” is the consistent continuation of this process. In the history of art the color black often takes on radical positions. From the complete and total reduction of painting (Ad Reinhardt) through to postulating, that this is the most active of all colors (Pierre Soulages) – in focused confrontation with black a powerful aura arises, which is also tangible in the Black Paintings by XOOOOX. The mirrored lettering “RED” in one painting called “Eno” hints in this context at black being the dwelling for all other colors, an artistic counterpart to the scientific field of chromatography.
On a tightly stretched, primed canvas a film of water is applied and then the spray paint in a single operation. The result is only partially controlled by the handling of the spray can. The short distance between spray can and canvas allows the paint to push the water film around and thus to impregnate the canvas permanently. But if the spray can backs away or moves more quickly, the paint swims upon the water’s surface. The effect of the two liquids’ hydrophobia offers a unique structure, resulting from evaporation, which gives the impression of some sort of microscopic photography upon close inspection. This process creates a field of tension within a seemingly uncontrollable pattern, but one that nonetheless follows fixed physical laws in its creation. Moments of recognition, associations from nature build a bridge between artificial abstraction and organic microcosm.
The figurative stencils are known from the street art scenes of Berlin and other world capitals. The canvas has never been enough for XOOOOX, the studio never a spatial limitation. Even in the context of an exhibition, this series offers a trenchant tension. Delicate, life-sized seductresses are stencilled onto a pockmarked, many layered background. The surfaces can be seen as a reference to the artist’s street work. The stencils create an aesthetic oasis between crumbling facades and sun-bleached graffiti, already faded by weathering processes. Here XOOOOX is contrasting an ideal of beauty to existential issues such as vulnerability and impermanence. A mirror placed before our eyes to show us the ever more rapidly shifting trends of our consumption society – the ephemerality of the everyday.
If one opens up to the works of XOOOOX, it will bear fruitful dialog, based on pressing issues and personal experience. Abstraction and intra-image contrast offer fuel to spark one’s thoughts. As Henri Nannen once proclaimed the value of this igniting quality: “Art has to be provocative, it has to stimulate our thoughts.”