Sunday, March 27, 2011


Fernand Léger
Mechanical Elements
I walked out of the nice newly renovated and re-named Galerie Emanuel Layr (formerly Layr + Wuestenhagen) thinking about Fernand Leger and Francis Picabia. Not because the artist Julien Bismuth whose exhibition is currently up happens to be French or that the work has any visual affinity to these machine-mad men but because of the gleaming trophy of an espresso machine in the back office that churned out a 25 second ristretto in half the time and tasted great.

Gallerist Emanuel Layr

I figured my mind was on a miss-direct and almost tossed down these thoughts with the last dregs of coffee. As it is they need more thought. But Picabia in particular brought me passing thoughts of Noam Chomsky’s “language machine” and the limitations of language as it pertains to ventriloquists and artists. The show itself, though mindfully conceptual has a fragmented formality to it and is highly restrained as Bismuth works on the cusp of visual art and language. The Wholes and parts, 1 meter long wooden stick pieces assert an intellectual rigeur and visual sparseness that reminded me of Walter de Maria’s Broken Kilometer which seems positively chaotic by it’s indulgence in Bismuth’s company.

In dieser großen Zeit, 10 min. video, Julien Bismuth
Julien Bismuth @ Emanuel Layr

In dieser großen Zeit, a 10 minute video, a ventriloquist shuffles two texts by Austrian Karl Kraus (1874-1936) who believed gramatical mistakes and language errors to be signifiers of far greater human evils (comma) including war. Kraus saw the state of language as leitmotivs to the greater state of society. As the ventriloquist ‘throws’ his voice while lending it to Kraus via Bismuth (or vice versa) one might consider another Kraus quote when considering this artist’s work,  “A writer is someone who can make a riddle out of an answer.” 

Walter De Maria, The Broken Kilometer, 1979. Long-term installation at
393 West Broadway, New York City. Photo: John Abbott. Copyright Dia Art Foundation

I entered Engelholm Enholm Galerie to find a cluster of some of the fussiest looking scultpures imprisoned in plexi-galss vitrines by Berlin based artist Björn Dahlem. I have written on Dahlem in the past and appreciate some of the large scale light installation works but unfortunately this show had none of the bravura and outer-space experimentation that the artist is capable of. Let the sculptures free!
Björn Dahlem @ Engelholm Enholm

Tex Rabinowitz @ Christine Koenig Galerie

Tex Rabinowitz and guests compose the BEND IT An exhibition on the role of music in the work of Gilbert & George at Christine König Galerie. I was attracted to the exhibition title as an idea for an exhibition but I was not at all attracted to the work in this gallery as a basis of a show. Like Seth Rogen in the Green Hornet or Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby this was a gallery to artist mis-cast. This show should have been in an alternative space or a bar, Max Fish, on the LES when it was still open. Or maybe a place like Ve.Sch in Vienna. Nothing against KKG or Rabinowitz but the gallery takes away any element of cool and replaces it with something sterile and helium. Instead of elevating the works the context somehow hurts it…like Jane Russell as a Cuban seductress/distractor in UNDERWATER! (1955)  - a miscast. 

Bernhard Leitner @ Georg Kargl

Bernhard Leitner at Georg Kargl Fine Art on the other hand is a fit. The seminal work of this sound-space sculptor finds comfort in its surroundings. The show gathers together several examples of the Leitner’s sound works along with drawings, documentation and various ephemora in this mini retrospective-like show. The largescale tube and speaker piece in the gallery’s main atrium room animates the space visually while echoing the plausible sound of rain on the glass ceiling. If it were raining it would rain again and if it is not it still is - a beautiful riff on the space and the sound.

Bernhard Leitner @ Galerie Georg Kargl

Did you know that with only alum and water you can grow a big crystal? It’s an interesting experiment and also a way to investigate color as your experiments progress. The paintings at Galerie Andreas Huber by Daniel Lergon are experimental and claim to be about color and I have absolutely no reason to argue against this from a laboratory point of view. They are mostly hung in darkened gallery rooms and as one moves around the “retro-reflexive” pigment appears and disappears glowing with a bioluminescence (if it were alive!) that definitely has a curiosity factor going for it. The show is entertaining (I’ll save the smudge paintings on the wall for another time), a head scratcher. However the vehicle for all this mad-scientist experimentation arrives via generic abstract gestures and this is where the problem lies.

Daniel Lergon @ Galerie Andreas Huber
Yes…it is about the eye, about our visual perception. But the mechanism of that perception could be as well a grid, a silkscreen of Liz Taylor (RIP) or a dot matrix. What do the images ultimately have to do with how they look? They could be anything and right now they are experiments that have seemingly very little to do with the abstract painting technique they employ. It was one of the more interesting shows to think about and see.
Installation view @ Meyer Kainer
At Meyer Kainer a good group show (not an oxymoron)is bookended by great works by two great artists: Richard Artschwager and Franz West. (Redundant, I know, I know.) The gallery is literally punctuated by black Artschwager pieces and disseminated by West’s acute sense of place. These two ideas are combined in a fine collaboration between Joseph Strau and Clegg & Guttmann, while other standout works include a killer Cy Twombly and a new special edition print series by Gelatin in honor of the Gelatin Pavillion – Some Like it Hot at this year’s upcoming Venice Biennale. Hot!

Gelatin @ Meyer Kainer
Installation view Artschwager, Joseph Strau w/ Clegg & Guttmann @ Meyer Kainer
Daniel Lergon @ Andreas Huber

Bernhard Leitner @ Georg Kargl

Julien Bismuth @ Emanuel Layr

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