Armin Boehm (b. 1972, Aachen) has become one of the key figures in a generation of German artists that includes names like Jonas Burgert, Jonathan Meese and Anselm Reyle. Born and raised in West Germany, Boehm enrolled at the academy in Münster in 1995 and later graduated from Staatliche Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 2001, where he was a Meisterschüler of both Konrad Klapheck and Jörg Immendorff. Having experienced a steady upsurge in artistic impact and recognition since the mid-naughts, he is now represented by some of the most prominent galleries of the international art world.
As a painter, Boehm has a unique style and touch that make his images instantly identifiable. Boehm almost always incorporates paper and textile patches in his works as a tangible reminder of the many layers of meaning in any image. As Boehm himself puts it, he “likes to paint with a pair of scissors”. This technique serves to emphasize the constructed nature of the painting, and because of the unusual texture of the canvas, strangely recognizable but still not entirely familiar, the viewer is forced to reexamine the work and second-guess her first impression. It is a way of provoking the eye and impeding automatic cognitive reactions.
As an artist, Armin Boehm is both part of society and someone situated on the outside looking in; he is simultaneously the elegant Berlin dandy, who is often pictured lounging in the periphery of his own motives, and the perspicacious and sarcastic polemicist, who calmly registers and dissects from a distance. Whatever his subject may be – innocuous cityscapes, riots from the suburbs, surreal portraits, decadent champagne parlors or flower still lives – Boehm playfully and freely makes use of the past and the present, of the humorous and the tragic, the beautiful and the monstrous, of the political and the naïve. In his often rather epic paintings, he moreover demonstrates his abilities as a sardonic storyteller, who always allows for at least two contradictory readings of the same scenario.
In NORTH, Armin Boehm presents a new body of works that depicts the life of a modern metropolis. Boehm has taken inspiration from previous visits to Copenhagen, the architecture of the city, its rhythm and population, but the actual works are not necessarily meant to portray the Danish capitol: It could be anywhere in Europe.
The exhibition is compounded by a merger of four singular lines in the Boehmian nomenclature: the slightly chaotic but still innocent cityscapes; the mad and almost barbaric riot scenes; the grotesque and surreal psychological portraits; the lush and decadent depictions of the well-to-do. Although seemingly detached at a glance, combined these different lines actually provide a powerful diagnosis of life and the state of things in affluent western societies: We keep up appearances and lead a seemingly carefree life of comparative luxury and abundance, but rebellion, aggression and resistance always-already loom beneath the surface, and thus we cannot help but become torn and schizophrenic as a people. It is the eternal – and eternally ugly – fight between idealism and reality. And it is quite possibly both ugly and uncomfortable, but as Boehm himself once stated:
“I don’t want to do comfortable paintings. We live in an uncomfortable time.”
NORTH opens Friday May 24th in Hans Alf Gallery with an official vernissage from 5 till 8 pm. The show is on view through June 29th.