HOW TO CHARM

 

Shannon Bool, William Crawford, Thea Djordjadze, Anne Haack, Sofia Hultén, Margret – Chronicle of an Affair, Michail Pirgelis, Andreas Schulze 

Curated by Lena Ipsen

February 21 – April 23, 2016

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The starting point of the show is a lithograph taken from Gotthilf Heinrich von Schubert's textbook on ‘Natural History for the School and Home’ of 1886. This color lithograph is a lively portrayal of the romantic, idealized natural and cultural philosophy of that era. The Ice Age man defends his woman, child and home like a hero with flowing cape and raised hatchet against a belligerent bear. Although this imagined prehistoric scenario seems very far off our present relationship culture, it still illustrates an archaic longing for recognition, seduction and pleasure. From drawing, painting and photography to sculpture and installation, this exhibition unites a group of eight artists, who freely call into question How to Charm and who investigate the materiality of that affair. 

 

Shannon Bool’s (b. 1972 in Comox, Canada) Broken Pole (2010) was once part of the installation A Perpendicular Expression of a Horizontal Desire. It is equally inspired by Pamela Anderson’s pole dancing bar, which she has installed in her living room as a decorative element, our (absurd) workout culture, and Barnett Newman’s iconic sculpture Broken Obelisk (1963-69). However, the associated repertoire of female seduction and the cult of the genius male artist undermines Bool via the seemingly fragile structure of her work.

 

Sealed off from the outside world in a California prison, William Crawford brought his sexual dreams to life in his drawings. Most of them originate in complex narrative stories. The unique style of drawing arises from the intense desire of Crawford to visualize these fantasies. On the one hand, one finds meticulously reproduced pleasurable facial expressions, erotic accessories and a very plastic formulation of the body. On the other, one faces constant overdrawing, omissions, incorrect proportions, hints of interiors and simple geometric details. Though there is very little known about Crawford, it can be assumed that the man with a short Afro and mustache, often a part of the scenario, is the artist himself.

 

Thea Djordjadze (b. 1972 in Tbilisi, Georgia) presents in her multi-part installation an allusive disposition of various objects. Among them are some which evoke a sense of familiar domesticity – a welded metal table and objects of traditional feminine connotation such as a glass jug. Tension and ambiguity are simultaneously generated by the addition of two abstract geometric shapes of delicate colors and different materiality. The foam of the smaller square is malleable, the jug upside-down, like a gesture or a moment, but the scene presented in Djodjadze’s installation remains unexplained.   

 

The works of Anne Haack (b. 1987 in Freiburg, Germany) are seductive. Warm colors, powdery materials, fine lines that move in balletic gesture upon the surface as if in the process of form-finding or even dissolving the form. With a strong emphasis of the medium itself, at first glance the painting relays a feeling of lightness and tenderness; at second glance the long process of development and a consequent (re-)working of the wooden surface becomes apparent. Processuality, transience, gesture and the autonomy of the material evoke a sense of beauty as well as of profundity.

 

The work entitled In the Genes (2014) of Sofia Hultén (b. 1972 Sweden) implies a certain wordplay. Taking ‘genes’ as a literal translation, Hultén employs denim ‘jeans’ as gender-specific representations. Concentrating in an ironical, perhaps less charming way on the crotch of the jeans, the artist zips this specific part of her own jeans together with one found in the street. The two components differ subtly but fit together perfectly, giving the work a poetic, almost romantic touch.

 

Margret – Chronicle of an Affair consists of a rediscovered compilation of photographs, typewritten personal notes and objects, documenting with precision the secret love affair, which lasted from May 1969 to December 1970, of the Cologne businessman Günter K. and his much younger secretary, Margret S. Günter’s obsession is evident in the hundreds of photographs he took of his mistress in sexy poses as well as in his preservation of the plushly furnished apartment above the company office which functioned as their love nest. Among the photographs are also images of her clothes, which he gave to Margret as presents or which she brought from home to please Günter, as well as charming photos of their little getaways. In addition to the photographs, he collected tickets, her pubic hair and pill packs – souvenirs of a manic, forbidden love. 

 

Michail Pirgelis' (b. 1976 in Essen, Germany) object exists in between different conditions:  between what it actually was, what it is and what it could be – always preserving autonomy of material and process. At this moment, No Type I (2015) appears to be a very corporeally abstract representation of a woman and a man. Thus the patina not only opens up an associative space of its own history, but also one full of attributes of human relationship such as strength, vulnerability, imperfection, attraction, beauty, differences and togetherness.

 

Andreas Schulze’s (b. 1955 in Hannover, Germany) abstract painting Untitled (Without Rhyme or Reason 4) (2015) could depict an exhaust pipe. Although Schulze always focuses with a certain twinkle on mostly ordinary objects within his personal environment, the magical ejection of gray smoke could be a metaphor for much more. Perhaps one sees a macho gesture in the form of a roaring engine – a fetishization of an industrial product. Alternatively, the smoke, escaping in opposite directions, may be a symbol of an unrealized communication or a very distinguished understanding of what truly impresses or charms.