Selecting the Energy

Over some top-notch rhubarb cake at Der Kuchen Laden, and coffee, A and I discussed Schrebergardens, FKK, anthroposophism and the way that nudity and clothing is regulated and expressive across gender, class and ethnicity. We talked about nudity in the sauna, the burkini, and dress codes.

After oohing and aahing about how different Charlottenburg seems to us we headed to Galerie Michael Haas where we encounterd an army of small nude bronze figures on pedestals by Rolf Szymanski and the large field and line paintings of Frank Wiebe. A was wondering how the sculptures might have been made and she said that the way that they are made expresses both somehow natural and raw. We were told by the gallery attendant that there were more large Szymanskis locked up in an appointment-only gallery nearby.

I didn’t say it to A, but I thought about how they were mostly nude women and I wasn’t quite sure what i was supposed to take away from them. One of them was on all fours and I thought about a lecture series I had been listening to on modern French painting, where it was pointed out that most models where prostitues and that there was a thematic “stooping or bent over woman.” The press release, which although printed in color was only in German, mentioned something about energy and the process of making, but the nude as a subject was not really discussed.

A said that she responded the most to the etched prints by Wiebe hanging on the wall, because she thought that prints are something between painting and printing, like in books, and she liked that. I wished I would have remembered how to identify various types of prints. She thought the painting on the wall might have a drawing in the shape of a heart, but I don’t think we responded much to them. As we exited, we responded much more to some very particular black and white doors on Niebuhrstrasse.

Then we headed to Max Hetzler where we saw the large abstract (expressionist) paintings of Zhang Wei, who in the press release is “regarded as one of the first abstract painters in China.” I think we enjoyed the paintings, which looked especially good in the space which A described as aristocratic. A mentioned the spontaneity of the pictures which were painted in veils of thin inky oil in just a few gestures. She noticed that the white space around the swings and dabs of the brush made them look like they were painted on the wall somehow even. I thought the light colors looked fresh and light for the largeness of the canvases and the boldness of the marks and I was thinking about how it must be a difficult task for the artist to select what paintings are successful and which ones are not successful. The press release mentioned “qi” which was described as a process of releasing energy when the ink and paper touch the brush.

On to the next gallery, we talked about artists that were also philosophers A mentioning Megan Craig, who I didn’t know and I mentioning Adrian Piper. We talked a bit about scary fascist politics including the “black-listing” professors for supposed discimination of conservative students, which I hadn’t yet heard about.

In the second Max Hetzler gallery we saw the exhibition of Konstantin Grcic, an industrial designer. A was interested in a wooden chair the way that the “Epocsodielak”, a very large disco machine with various moving lights, affected the other artworks. We both responded to the various chairs that were showcased, saying that we wanted to touch them. Looking at the large-scale futuristic cityscape digital image printed on canvas we started having mixed feelings about how we should engage with the work. At first it looked like a painting.

I was interested in the question of why it should be art instead of design, at least why one should put high-end design objects like furniture in a fine art setting. A mentioned the Bauhaus as being an example of design that idealistic and for the people. What role does design have now, we wondered? I was feeling a bit like the design being showcased here was just an attempt at making the objects somehow seem even more expensive and more exclusive than they were in the first place.

There was a metal, geodosic-looking neon green chair with a concrete foot, apparently a familiar classic of the designer showcased on a kind of glass pedestal made out of some standard L shaped iron rods and a piece of glass. There was a large tent thing stretched across the room and there were some very sleek tables. I thought of the way minimalism had in a sense, highlighted the meaning of industrial materials, but how that that meaning now had somehow expired and was now just a look.

Almost all the galleries this week had doorbells, which made them seem more pretentious and exclusive. The last show we saw we enjoyed the most and marvelled at with smiles. It was called “Death Imitates Language” by Harm van den Dorpel at Neumeister Bar-Am. After climbing some post-industrial stairs to the second floor gallery space we saw some abstract prints on plexiglass that were uminescent, strange and funky. Upon reading the press release and watching the very funny abstract film we learned that van den Dorpel was engaged in a process of playing Darwin’s God by “breeding” his abstract paintings using software, artificial intelligence and his own decisions at selecting them. The video showed absurd silly names for the permutations who survived. It seemed like a very particular innovative way of coming up with abstract paintings. We also took a look at a clever little cube gallery space caved out of that wall, that showcases artists the gallery does not (yet) represent. It had some very new-age and esoteric looking womb stuff by Shana Moulton in a mini-installation. It probably deserved a second look, but we were pretty transfixed by the humor and concept of van den Dorpel’s works, which also poked fun at more serious themes like artistic reproduction, authorship, and as A mentioned, eugenics.