19 December 2012

ROMKA.MAGAZINE #7

gabor_arion_kudasz-hungary Christopher Sharpe_ England, UK Christopher Sharpe_ England, UK Text taiyo_onorato-germany sonya_dyakova-uk jan_dirk_van_der_burg-netherlands aaron_macdonald-canadaIris Janke_ Germany (Detail)
From the top: Gábor Arion Kudász — Hungary; Christopher Sharp - England, Uk; (Text) Christopher Sharp - England, Uk; Taiyo Onorato — Germany; Sonya Dyakova — England, UK;  Jan-Dirk van der Burg — Netherlands; Aaron MacDonald — Canada; Detail) Iris Janke - Germany; images courtesy the artists and romka magazine

We live in a generation where instagram, pinterest, facebook and other photo suppliers reveal the daily visual dairies of thousands of strangers. We are overwhelmed by other people's privacy, feeding our voyeuristic greed. The Leipzig-based romka.magazine seems to have picked up on that trend, celebrating the purity of snapshots. Developed in a book series, the magazine shows the favourite photos from lots of professional and amateur photographers, including a little story about each picture. 
With a minimalist and clear design, their seventh issue juxtaposes nostalgic photos of grandparents, of the photographers' youths, loved ones, random experiences or landscapes. The small stories take the reader to a scenic moment, like in the case of the little girl in the subway on Iris Janke's picture (above):

"We were all together on the subway. Alexander, Nicolas, Milena and me — the whole family. It was Sunday, totally crowded and my daughter Milena was so excited when this blonde Romanian girl with her dog came in and sat down next to her. I photographed the two of them together and this is the last picture I took before the girl and her dog got off the subway."

Other great shots are for instance by Christopher Sharp, who submitted a portrait of his grumpy grandmother (image and text above) or Jan-Dirk von der Burg's fantastic image of him and his mother standing next to their giant marihuana plant. romka.magazine leaves space for the ephemeral, for the inconspicuous - it highlights the exclusiveness of emotional value and delivers a comforting justification to why we seem to love looking at other peoples' private pictures and obviously our own dusty photoalbums - nostalgically tripping down memory lane.

13 December 2012

INTERVIEW: ANDRÉ SMITS

For his ambitious project ‘Artists in the World. The Never Ending Art Trip’ the kind and open Dutch artist André Smits has addressed himself to a giant task: taking pictures of all the artists that he can get a hold of - with the crucial difference, that he only photographs from the rear view. Possessing a collection of over 1500 back-portraits, which are publicly archived on his project’s website artistsintheworld.com, André always follows contact recommendations of artists, curators or gallerists  from only one person per trip - his so called ‘guide’. Consequently, his network gets larger and larger each day, everyone is somehow connected with each other and André documents this process with doodles that he paints on the walls of his country house. When André visited me here in Berlin, I wanted to know what drives him to do such a crazy and similarly brilliant mission. Find the interview below.

Andre Smits_interview_artists in the world_artfridge

7 December 2012

BERLIN: CHARLIE ANDERSON



I am currently working for the Berlin-based production company Freshmilk.TV where I get the chance of creating art-focused short films – Compared to writing a different and interesting shift of perception!
A couple of weeks ago I met met young Scottish artist Charlie Anderson for his new show „No One Gets Out Alive“ at Mila Art Gallery in Berlin. We talked about his pieces that dwell between the borders of Pop Art and Urban realism and how they work as a preserver of a collective memory.

4 December 2012

BERLIN: TILL DEATH DO US PART

ralf schmerberg_Der Tod nimmt sich einen Tag nach dem anderen._artfridge.deralf schmerberg_Der Tod nimmt sich einen Tag nach dem anderen._artfridge.deralf schmerberg_Der Tod nimmt sich einen Tag nach dem anderen._artfridge.de
Installation views of the exhibition "Der Tod nimmt sich einen Tag nach dem anderen." by Ralf Schmerberg at Mindpirates Vereinsheim Berlin, courtesy Ralf Schmerberg; Video "Ich kann Dir die Welt nicht zu Füssen legen" of the POEM series by Ralf Schmerberg, courtesy Ralf Schmerberg

The enormous space of Mindpirates Vereinsheim in Berlin is an attraction itself: An old mill by the Spree, restored, still furnished by some few tools from the past. This location is constantly used for several projects, such as exhibitions, concerts, parties, dinners or performances. Every event is connected to each other. Sound and video installations become a part of a temporary interior, where people stay and spend time. At Mindpirates Vereinsheim, I always get the impression that I am losing my sense of reality, being trapped in a fantasy world - a paradise for creativity.
The current exhibition "Der Tod nimmt sich einen Tag nach dem anderen" ( Death takes one day at a time) showing a retrospective by Mindpirates founder, video-and photo artist Ralf Schmerberg, is directed to his Berlin, to friends and partners. Filling the exhibition space and his private studio on the top floor, this is is a home match in every sense.
125 photographs, commercial and artistic videos, sound installations and project excerpts: A blast of imagery and poetry. Born in 1965 in Ludwigsburg, Schmerberg started to work as a filmmaker and photographer in 1990 in Berlin, always shifting between art, advertise and activism. The photos, which often document colleagues, making-of moments and portraiture from his commercial jobs, attest to a dionysian and surreal lust for life. Despite the morbid title, Schmerberg's work opposes death. 
The beautiful short film "Ich kann Dir die Welt nicht zu Füssen legen" from his POEM series is one of my favourite works from the show: The video, which is number 5 out of 19 films that he dedicated to Poetry, combines Heiner Müller's words with a room filled with burning wedding dresses.
Schmerberg's distinct aesthetic tolerates a battle between silence and noise, it is colourful and enthusiastic. There is no room for misery and exhaustion.

27 November 2012

BOOKS: ON BORDERS

hkw_ueber_grenzen_anne_schoenharting_c_schoenharting_ostkreuz_mittel hkw_ueber_grenzen_annette_hauschild_c_hauschild_ostkreuz_mittel hkw_ueber_grenzen_espen_eichhoefer_c_eichhoefer_ostkreuz_mittel hkw_ueber_grenzen_heinrich_voelkel_c_voelkel_ostkreuz_mittel 891001hh92 on borders _ ostkreuz _ hatjacantz verlag _ review artfridge.de
from the top: Anne Schönharting: Gerry Reynolds, katholischer Priester, Bombay Street, West Belfast, 2011 © Anne Schönharting; Annette Hauschild: Alex und Enikó, Gyönyöspata, Ungarn, 2012 © Annette Hauschild; Espen Eichhöfer: Nationalgarde, Südsudan 2012 © Espen Eichhöfer; Heinrich Völkel: UN Pufferzone, Flughafen Lefkosia, Nikosia, Zypern © Heinrich Völkel; Harald Hauswald: Bluesmesse Rummelsburg, DDR © Harald Hauswald; HATJE CANTZ Cover Image by Dawin Meckel: Vern auf Taubenjagd, Kanada 2012 © Dawin Meckel; ALL IMAGES ALSO © OSTKREUZ

"Not even death wants me", the young Palestinian Saleh says, recalling one of his many failed tries to kill himself. Saleh is a hustler, living in the middle of Tel Aviv, Isreal. His life takes place within the walls of an abandoned bus station, where he resides together with other drug-addicted homosexuals, transvestites, Christians, Muslims, Jews. The walls mark a border - not a territorial one, but one that makes the other inhabitants of Tel Aviv feel more comfortable and similarly offers shelter to the outcasts. Tobias Kruse's photographic documentation and Fritz Schaap's accompanying essay on the old "Terminal" in Tel Aviv, is one out of incredible 17 stories, printed in the exhibition catalogue "On Borders".

23 November 2012

BERLIN: FUZZY RELATIONS

Erik A. Fransen _ Fuzzy Relations _ Galerie Mikael Andersen Berlin _ photo copyright artfridge Erik A. Fransen _ Fuzzy Relations _ Galerie Mikael Andersen Berlin _ photo copyright artfridge Erik A. Fransen _ Fuzzy Relations _ Galerie Mikael Andersen Berlin _ photo copyright artfridge Erik A. Fransen _ Fuzzy Relations _ Galerie Mikael Andersen Berlin _ photo copyright artfridgeErik A. Fransen _ Fuzzy Relations _ Galerie Mikael Andersen Berlin _ photo copyright artfridgeErik A. Fransen _ Fuzzy Relations _ Galerie Mikael Andersen Berlin _ photo copyright artfridge
all from the top: exhibition "Fuzzy Relations" by Erik A. Frandsen, at Galerie Mikael Andersen, Berlin; photos by artfridge

POW WOW - A colour explosion has attacked Galerie Mikael Andersen in Berlin! The current exhibition 'Fuzzy Relations' by Danish popular artist Erik A. Frandsen (*1956) screams three-dimensionally from the top, the sides, the front and even the bottom. The bonbon-floor, consisting of monochrome, randomly assembled squares and funnily titled 'The Desert', the flower-paintings, the neon-lamp and obviously the visitors are reflected in Frandsen's stainless-steel carvings. Those mirror-like works reveal the images of flowers - a motif that the artist has been working with for several decades. 

As much as the flower is a motif that would easily lead to prejudices, in Frandsen's work it purely manifests itself as a superficiality, that is to say, a pretty tool employed to play with colour, material and shape. His still-lifes are painted with thick brushstrokes. Layer over layer, the canvas grows, dominating the initial motif. In contrast, the idea for his neon-lamp 'Frozen Moment' arose from a series of long-exposure-photos that Frandsen took while he and his wife touched each other. Their movements left a bright trace on each picture, which he adopted when shaping the lamp. The overall-impression is less 'Fuzzy' than I expected, but it is rather glamourous. Frandsen's show is an extreme juxtaposition of the contemporary and the old fashioned, and after all it is the bright colours that makes this brave combination work out smoothly. 

On the other side of the gallery, you can see Maxime Ballesteros (*1984) photo exhibit 'Straw House'. The two shows do not belong together, and perhaps attract totally different visitors, but Ballesteros work is certainly worth a look as well - its sexy, a little rock'n'roll and makes you think about quitting your job and starting a road trip. All the photos from Ballesteros show are below.

19 November 2012

BERLIN: BLACK IS THE NEW BLACK

Jannis Kounellis at Blain|Southern Berlin _ photo copyright artfridge Jannis Kounellis at Blain|Southern Berlin _ photo copyright artfridge Jannis Kounellis at Blain|Southern Berlin _ photo copyright artfridge Jannis Kounellis at Blain|Southern Berlin _ photo copyright artfridge Jannis Kounellis at Blain|Southern Berlin _ photo copyright artfridge
all images: Jannis Kounellis exhibition at Blain|Southern, Berlin; photo copyright artfridge

The material of tar pitch is extremely viscous - it is so viscous, that it was used to torture people and therefore reached a negative connotation in the German language: "Pech" suggests bad luck. In Jannis Kounellis current show at Blain|Southern in Berlin, the black substance emblematically hovers above the artworks, regardless of its brutality and its comfortless severity.
For the 1936-born Kounellis, steel and coal - multiply employed in the greek artist's solo show - assume the roles of a basis of modern society. Their heaviness is outweighted by simple black worker-jackets, which are nailed to steel frames or laid in a serpentine pattern around four circles of coal sacks. This connection instantly evokes a notion of labour, but the jackets similarly represent an anonymous figure - a shell that lost its inside.
Opposed to the jackets on steel frames, Jannis Kounellis re-introduces Kazimierz Malewicz's manifesto and positioned several black painted canvases in different sizes, measured after paintings of famous masterpieces by Goya or Caravaggio. Above each painting, the artist placed long steal beams hanging on steel bars, each carrying a long knife on a butcher's hook. The same hooks are used in the wall installation at the end of the gallery, carrying black jackets folded into a ball of textiles.
The non-colour black is not only visually apparent, but it becomes, as curator Rudi Fuchs translates for Jannis Kounellis, "the topic, the leitmotif". Art, as Fuchs explains, needs to be "terrible", it is not beautiful. But however aggressive, brutal and even viscous Kounellis black-in-black exhibition might seem, it certainly doesn't lack beauty.

13 November 2012

BERLIN: INFINITY HAS NO ACCENT

Infinity has no accent _ Halil Altındere _ photos by artfridgeInfinity has no accent _ Halil Altındere _ photos by artfridge Infinity has no accent _ Halil Altındere _ photos by artfridge Infinity has no accent _ Halil Altındere _ photos by artfridge Infinity has no accent _ Halil Altındere _ photos by artfridge
all works, including photos, sculptures and film-stills, by Halil Altındere in the show 'Infinity has no accent' at Tanas, Berlin; images by artifridge

In most parts of Europe and the USA, socially and politically critical art works have had a hard time being accepted within the last years. That might be because the western world feels more or less comfortable with its current situation or maybe just because it generally seems uncool to cry about politics. At the same time, however, it is artists like Ai Weiwei and Pussy Riot, who have been celebrated as important and liberating heroes of our generation. In the end, it always comes down to the question: Can art actually change anything?
From that perspective, it was extremely interesting to see the current exhibition by Halil Altındere, a 1971-born contemporary Turkish artist and curator with an extremely wide spectrum of work material, at Tanas Berlin. Showing art that he produced within the last five years, Altındere breaks all the rules, crosses all the borders that we perhaps imagine to be stopping him in Turkey. Gay soccer players and body builders, seductive beauty queens, ridiculous chauvinism and nationalism - criticism is his weapon. 
Originating from a painterly education, Altındere's short films reveal his liability to classic aestheticism. Colours, composition, dynamics merge into a superficially beautiful picture, that is broken with a harsh cynicism and irony. And after all, hasn't irony always been an effective weapon against political issues?

5 November 2012

COLOGNE: A STOLEN LIMESTONE

Drei Galerie Köln_Opening Samantha Bohatsch, Alice Guareschi, Rowena Harris_ artfridge.de Drei Galerie Köln_Opening Samantha Bohatsch, Alice Guareschi, Rowena Harris_ artfridge.de Drei Galerie Köln_Opening Samantha Bohatsch, Alice Guareschi, Rowena Harris_ artfridge.de Drei Galerie Köln_Opening Samantha Bohatsch, Alice Guareschi, Rowena Harris_ artfridge.de Drei Galerie Köln_Opening Samantha Bohatsch, Alice Guareschi, Rowena Harris_ artfridge.de Drei Galerie Köln_Opening Samantha Bohatsch, Alice Guareschi, Rowena Harris_ artfridge.de
from the top: image 1-2, cemented shirts 'Selenium' by Rowena Harris; image 3-6 three-piece installation 'Whenever Standing In Between Whiles' by Alice Guareschi, all images by artfridge, courtesy DREI, Cologne and the artists  

Last weekend, Cologne bursted with art events: The 10th Art Fair, the long museum night and the joint gallery opening 'Cologne Contemporaries', where 12 younger galleries, such as Jagla, Sebastian Brandel, Teapot, or DREI were open throughout the whole weekend. 
On Saturday night I visited DREI, to see their current group show including pieces by Samantha Bohatsch, Alice Guareschi and Rowena Harris. In fact, it is not actually a group show, but rather three separate solo exhibitions within one space. Already in the past, DREI has managed to curate complicated and often site-specific installation works in juxtaposition with two dimensional pieces. A recurring motif of the gallery-shows, it seems, is space, the artistic handling of spatiality and spatial quality. In the current exhibition, this is what I sensed to be the central theme.

On the gallery's ground floor Rowena Harris positioned two cemented and squared shirts, standing - shy and invisible - in a corner next to the stairway. Her colourful and abstracted prints Attachment, which are the second part of her mini-show 'Cold Compress', are similarly camouflage by the space, almost becoming absent, as they are hanging behind the windows as if they were light protectors.
In the first floor's main room, Alice Guareschi's presentation 'Whenever Standing In Between Whiles' suggests an interplay of the two- and the three-dimensional - the vertical and horizontal: a standing paravant-like mirror, a lying round-shaped labyrinth, a hanging and framed photograph. Beautiful and yet, conceptually challenging, this composition asks the visitor to interfere and disturb its invisible bond. 
The most traditional and equally narrative space is to be found in the last and smallest room of the gallery, where Samantha Bohatsch presents a textile sculpture and three manipulated museum-postcards in her mini-show 'Virginia'. Referring to Virginia Woolf, baroque and alienated clothes  suggest identificatory notions of the (artist's) body. Also Bohatsch plays with the motif of absence, as she integrates a missing white limestone as her central piece, now merely adorning the invitation cards. 

Different and similarly challenging conceptual notions behind each small presentation complicate access and understanding of an overall exhibition concept. But even if time or patience do not allow to comprehend the art works' agency, one would still recognize and acknowledge the effort that it takes to create such an aesthetic compositional interplay.

22 October 2012

ARTIST WATCH: CHRISTIAN HENKEL

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all images courtesy and copyright Christian Henkel

At one point in his life, the German sculptor and painter Christian Henkel (*1976) must have decided that the shape of a half ellipse will become significant for his practice. Mostly raised by four steel-legs so that the geometric shape reminds me a bit of a house, Henkel repeatedly redefines the object over and over. Colours, material and collage-techniques change, but Henkel holds on to the pattern, as if it was an investigation. Depending on the the exhibition, he juxtaposes his flying half-ellipses to stapled objects, little figures, paintings or pieces of nature, such as a tree. 
The artist calls his practice Amateur Standard, which could be understood as a conceptual statement against conceptual art. What I find striking about his work is that Henkel breaks with all conventions. He dares to mix-and-match, to invent something completely new. The result is beautiful and self-confident. If Sigmund Freud would have known that the repetition compulsion syndrom could be so cool, he would maybe have considered not to treat it after all.

Christian Henkels work is currently shown in the exhibition "AMATEUR STANDARD. PROFI" at Kunstpavillon Innsbruck in Austria and it runs until the 10th of November 2012.

20 October 2012

LONDON: FRIEZE ART FAIR #2 - BEST OF THE REST

Nicole Eisenman - installation view at Studio Voltaire 2Nicole Eisenman - installation view at Studio Voltaire 1 Nicole Eisenman - installation view at Studio Voltaire 4 DOI 163 DOIG 159
From the top: Image 1-3: installation by Nicole Eisenman, courtesy the artist and Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin; Leo Koenig Inc., New York and Susanne Vielmetter, Los Angeles; Image 4-5: Peter Doig “Riding in Water (Red)”, 2012 and “Fall in New York (Central Park)”, 2002-2012, Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, New York and London


So the big tops have come down and the Frieze circus is over for another year. However, lasts week’s dizzying programme included many openings, private views and events at more permanent spaces, which remain open and are highly recommended. 

As well as having put on a lovely spread for Friday’s brunch view, Clapham’s Studio Voltaire bring together two female artists exploring the erotic charge of the human body through very different media in their current double show. Created during a month-long residency at the gallery, Nicole Eisenman’s large-scale plaster sculptures are the long, liquid-limbed cousins of the bulbous faces that inhabit her most recent paintings and prints. Limber and expressive, they hunch, fold, bend and slump against the gallery’s walls and floor, which are splattered with chalky smudges of dried plaster. Next door, a looped YouTube clip in which a pair of trainered feet scuff and scrape in a stylised game of footsie with the flinty ground plays on one of two screens. A separate voiceover narration intersperses a description of the artist’s experience of watching an internet video of a man carving a hand axe with the semi-erotic comments left online beneath the trainer clip. Perverse but somehow seductive, Charlotte Prodger’s installation uses the trappings of 21st century consumer culture to tap into a potent sensibility of the properly ‘digital’ - hands and feet – and a primitive intermingling of violence and sexuality.

On the other side of town Peter Doig’s hazily tropical latest offerings at Michael Werner outshine their muted counterparts in Luc Tuymans on show at David Zwirner’s new Mayfair space, just up the road. Heavingly, muggily romantic, they share the sunlit pallete of Chris Ofili’s recent paintings, whilst still retaining the brooding, otherworldy atmopshere of Tuyman’s dark frames.

At Alan Cristea, lightness is all. In ceramicist Edmund de Waal’s installation, a thousand hours (2012), two glass vitrines are filled with an accumulation of 1000 hand-thrown porcelain vessels. The dry, ashy hues of unglazed clay, these slender tubes have mute, pale and timeless beauty.