An abundance of international art in Berlin nowadays is a given. Rivaling London and New York’s expat allure, international creatives are flocking to Berlin more than ever before—filling studio spaces and getting imported for major gallery shows. This year’s Gallery Weekend boasts some of these major international headliners like Jenny Holzer at Sprüth Magers, Douglas Gordon at Niels Borch Jensen and Diane Arbus at Kicken, but also features many home-grown talents. With a total of 51 galleries opening special exhibitions, Nicole Rodriguez highlights some of the German artists, both on and off the official roster.
This week Johann König is bringing out the big guns — literally — with his solo-show of internationally exhibited Katharina Grosse. Wielding an industrial spray gun and a predilection for otherworldly, near-psychedelic landscapes, Grosse’s first exhibition at the Berlin-based gallery, titled They Had Taken Things Along To Eat Together, includes a new series of paintings as well as a site-specific installation. A typical exhibition by the Freiburg-born artist goes a little something like this: massive polystyrene objects or cavernous white spaces are covered with graffiti-inspired spray-paint, towering above viewers, enveloping them in a juxtaposition of blending color, inorganic shapes and often mounds of piled dirt on the floor. This fusion of sculpture, architecture and painting produce a visceral play of light and shadow, color and texture. Highly aesthetically driven, the massive constructions and unabashedly grand gestures suggest we’ve missed a fantastical performance by mere seconds.
XOOOOX, Hamburg, stencil, courtesy of Circleculture Gallery.
Berlin streets are of course covered themselves with spray-paint. The ubiquity of graffiti has made Berlin a destination for urban art, and amongst the most noted locally is XOOOOX. If you have ever walked through Berlin Mitte, you are probably already familiar with his work — sharp stencil portraits featuring sartorial nods and the artist’s signature x’s and o’s. Utilizing ephemeral canvases like exposed building facades, decaying wood and rusting metals both inside and out of the gallery, the undercover artist appropriates the language of high fashion to pay homage to couture and beauty, and to simultaneously critique consumer-driven hype. Coinciding with Gallery Weekend and a group exhibition, Circleculture Gallery is launching the artist’s first monograph recently published by Gestalten Verlag. This first book documents XOOOOX’s work on the streets, from the studio, and selected exhibitions.
Thomas Zipp, Blue Flowers in a Pot, 2012, acrylic and oil on canvas, 110 x 80cm, courtesy Galerie Guido W. Baudach, Berlin. Photo by Roman März.
Another large-scale installation is Thomas Zipp’s multi-gallery Blackout Chambers, L'Arc de Cercle and Dissociative Amnesia at Galerie Guido W. Baudach in Wedding and Charlottenburg. Born in Heppenheim and trained as a painter, Zipp brings together media from across the board — paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings and installations — to create a dual-gallery concept that strives to integrate the spaces of the tandem exhibition venues, leaving the viewer slightly disassociated. Self-reflection and the rupture in the unity of consciousness and environment are crucial to Zipp, and force the viewers into moments of self-confrontation.
Monika Baer, Ohne Titel, 2012, oil on canvas, 180 x 134,5cm, Courtesy of Galerie Barbara Weiss.
The work of Monika Baer is situated in the nebulous space between minimalism and surrealism. She is one of those artists who produces only a few pieces a year and whose media runs the gamut; employing watercolor, oil, collage, drawing and a barrage of imagery. Her painting works are typically collage and rhythmical color fields on which a viewer’s eye floats through and between objects that seem as truncations of some larger narrative — perhaps a personal cypher or a large collection of abstracted memory snapshots. For her upcoming exhibition at Galerie Barbara Weiss, the artist continues to engage with a playful oscillation between fact and fiction, flatness versus space, figure versus abstraction, and the apparent versus the implied. Hers is an arena where motifs reemerge, recombine and renegotiating the meaning between individual work and collection.
Martin Eder, Auf einem endlosen Feld (in an endless field), 2012, aluminium plated resin, acrylic glass pedestal, 27 x 16 x 15 cm; pedestal: 15 x 15 x 15 cm, Courtesy of Eigen + Art.
The topic of surrealism is raised again with the Eigen + Art artist Martin Eder. Considered by some as among the best contemporary German painters, Eder’s work could be described as one part magic realism, one part scantily clad women, and one generous serving of kitsch. A sampling of his latest works, Asymmetry, encompasses a series of aluminum sculptures of human heads, a wax and wooden figure and a large-scale oil painting of, somehow naturally, a large, fleshy, cold nude.
In addition to the artists mentioned above, other German artists exhibiting include Alice Creischer at KOW, Friedrich Kunath at BQ, Mattias Schaufler at Galerie Cinzia Friedlaender, Armin Boehm at Meyer Riegger, Michael Wutz at Aurel Scheibler and Robert Elfgen at Sprüth Magers. For a complete list of exhibitors, artists and access to the virtual tour of the galleries and exhibitions powered by SpinningWire, visit http://www.gallery-weekend-berlin.de/.
(image top right: Katharina Grosse, One floor up more highly, 2010, installation view MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA, © Katharina Grosse & VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, photo by Art Evans.)