The announcement introducing devening projects + editions’ “Kabinett” project (of which this is the fifth installment of seven) explains, “Each of the seven projects in this series will feature a select group of artists whose individual positions vary greatly, sometimes to the point of opposition.” Opposition is the case here, with the paintings of Andreas Fischer paired with the sculptural works of Melissa Pokorny. At the same time, these two bodies of work almost completely merge dialectically into a singular whole.
Installation view of "Kabinett 5" at devening projects + editions. Image courtesy of devening projects + editions and the artists.
Perhaps a factor of the chromatics, it seems that the artists–at least in the works on view–share almost identical color palettes. It’s odd that two seemingly divergent trajectories would line up so well, but they do. On the one hand you have Fischer’s painting practice that is rooted in a deep commitment to the tradition of the medium. On the other, you have a sculptural practice that seems embedded in the contemporary.
But what does that mean? What is contemporary sculpture? What does it mean when the norm is to use “abnormal” or “unconventional” means? Most people would say that it’s a misnomer to call it sculpture. Pokorny’s assemblages or constructions consist of found objects, inkjet prints and industrial material–a mishmash that seems emblematic of what an artistic practice looks like today. “Thing” at the Hammer Museum (2005) and “Unmonumental” at the New Museum (2008) are two surveys of this pervasive approach to making. Or you could go all the way back to 1964 and Donald Judd’s “Specific Objects” essay where the word “sculpture” seems to begin to fall into disuse.
Despite how some may perceive it, Pokorny’s works still seem sculptural though and it seems right to call them that. For all their chaotic nature, they function as art and are secure in that status. And really, in this day and age, mixed media assemblages are more common than cast bronze or fired clay. Using a mixture of found, manufactured and hand made materials to make a single work is not only well established, it is the establishment. This is what sculpture now is. This way of working has its own tradition going back to Rauschenberg and further on to Picasso and the Dadaists. If you’re brave enough, you could even attempt to make a case that the Venus of Willendorf is made of found material.
Andreas Fischer. Unititled, 2010. Oil, acrylic on canvas. Image courtesy of devening projects + editions and the artist.
Both Fischer and Pokorny are preoccupied with formal concerns, or at the very least that investigation is most prevalent when the two are put together. The way Fischer constructs a painting–the layering of thick opaque areas over thin washes and scrawled charcoal drawing (untitled, 2010, seen above)–is an analogue to how Pokorny uses materials, juxtaposing and stacking items with very distinct physical characteristics, like translucent neon green plastic with metallic tape (Index, 2011).
The identity crisis of materiality in Pokorny’s objects is interesting. What is the point of having an archival inkjet print if you also include polyurethane resin and foam? These objects internalize a contradictory nature. Gathering (2011) is almost at war with itself, while Index (2011) somehow fuses Donald Judd with the French Rococo artist François Boucher in a satisfying and coherent way. And this is how the two artists’ work fits so well together. It’s clichéd, but there is something quite painterly in Pokorny’s sculptures and something quite sculptural in Fischer’s paintings.
Fischer’s sculptural turn is due in part to how the paintings are installed–they are placed on the wall in a scattered, salon-style re-interpretation, and almost act as extensions of Pokorny’s sculptures. The paintings themselves reflect the way Pokorny’s pieces are constructed. As I was comparing Pokorny’s fusion of Judd with the Rococo, I recognized that Fischer’s paintings similarly cross historical boundaries. As much as Fischer’s pleasant pastoral untitled (2010, seen above) might find company with contemporary artists Maureen Gallace or a Sophie von Hellerman, it hearkens back further, to Cezanne, Vuillard and Les Nabis. As painting is wont to do, it finds similarities with other paintings because as a rule all painting is primarily focused on the past. This is not meant as an insult, but it makes sense that a painting by Fischer would find a compatriot in a Peter Doig, because a lot of painters are still looking at Gauguin.
Is this to say that this scenario lends itself to art historical parlor games of conservative taste? In a way, yes. But that is also an oversimplification. This is our predisposition, since we as art viewers are trained to ferret out art historical referents left like breadcrumbs by artists in their work. So what, then, is one to make of all this? For "Kabinett 5" it is that a dynamic paring of two artists leads to a visually satisfying synergy, although it seems to be Pokorny who’s absorbed Fischer.
The "Kabinett" series, both in this iteration and previous ones, provides a unique situation where artists can play off one another, forming alliances and oppositions in their work. The careful selection of artists, whether one-on-one or in larger groups, provides an arena where a dialogue can take place. The end result is an excellent example of what one means when one says, The work is in conversation.
-Erik Wenzel, Senior ArtSlant Staff Writer