This week: This is the second of two interviews with German artists conducted by Mark Staff Brandl on the island of Elba, Italy. Alexander Johannes Kraut is an artist who concentrates on drawing and printmaking, sometimes reaching installative proportions. He has also created an amazing thirteen chapter wordless graphic novel. Kraut comes from a farming village in the Allgäu, and is now based in Kreuzberg in Berlin. He has lived in many places and exhibited widely in important museums and other venues including in Mexico City, Paris and New York as well as several places in Germany.
The artist was in an invitational retreat in July as a working guest of a foundation on the island of Elba along with Viennese jazz pianist and composer Martin Reiter, New York playwright Sony Sobieski, Ruessellsheim artist Martina AltSchaefer (the interviewee in part one) and Mark Staff Brandl, the Bad at Sports Continental and now also islandal European Bureau. As a note to English speakers: Kraut’s name is not only amusing as the English-language slang for ‘German,’ but also means ‘herb’ in German, and ‘Johannes Kraut,’ called ‘St. John’s wort’ in English, is a plant traditionally used to combat depression and, in ancient times, to ward off evil.
As reported on Abitare a group of cyclists dumped 13 gallons of water soluble different colored paint in the various lanes of traffic on the busy Rosenthaler Platz in downtown Berlin. In a mater of seconds the entire plaza became a mix of pink, blue, yellow & purple with the group putting up signs that the paint would easily wash away with little water.
Two weeks have passed and the news piles up ever higher. Switzerland returns 4,400 stolen antiquities to Italy the swiss then give a sigh of relief that they now have more room in their closets. Australian Paintings Keep Turning up in Texas in response Texas schools now add Australia to the geography curriculum (Sorry it’s low hanging fruit and I only hit those I love) & we elected a new President (which if you were outside of the country during you would have thought it was for World Emperor) but overall a slow week that was covered well by Meg.
So this week you get a two’fer of Art News Roundup “German Style” Yehaaa! Hündinnen. Last week the Lennie Small to Richard & Duncan’s George Milton checked out Preview Berlin, Art Forum Berlin, Berliner Liste & Bridge Art Fair: Berlin.
Erste up Preview Berlin:
Great location, excellent execution of booths, usage of space, and everything that goes into making a fair. The art was hit and miss but still better then the rest in many ways. There was a growing foam tower with bottle peice that was eye catching by Dieter Lutsch but faded quickly for me. The Gallery Realace from Berlin was the least interesting for me and little did I know would set the tone for the rest of the shows when it came to Berlin art. Their works were largely splashes of dynamic black and white shapes or red color fields with artworld fortune cookie thoughts.
They stood out but were really out of time and place for me. Oddly enough or fitting the UK/US galleries had more interesting works that we lower in contrast both visually and conceptually. Mixed Greens in NYC had works by Joan Linder that were large parchments with well know artists CV’s hand written. People from Mary Kelly, Lee Bontecou to Suzanne McClelland and Louise Bourgeois. Priska C. Juschka Fine Art had the most interesting work for me in the show with Jade Townsend’s “Gathering Loose Ends in a Bucket” which was a stark western town with gravestones and shops after an attack complete with black and white fire on both building and man alike. Old hat for some people and rightfully so but was a nice work for me.
artMbassy Berlin was quite interesting and their artist Dora Tass with her work with US currency imagery on lead has a lot of potential. With commentary on US military war profiteering it would be interesting to have her in a show with Burtonwood & Holmes.
Sandro Porcu’s beating live heart that reacts to a microphone was interesting but as with much of the work in Preview little beyond the obvious.
Zweite Comes Berliner Liste:
Berliner Liste was the everything and the kitchen sink show. How do you protect for a soft economy? Let everyone in who is willing to pay and alot of people were willing to pay for Liste. Easily over 112 galleries and multiple floors where for the first time ever I can agree with the “Too much art” mafia in their complaints of having a visual overload. There was not a theme, focus or anything to Liste it was just an avalanche of art with many galleries working in souvenir art to the works. Low cost versions of the art they are selling that echo the original in one way or another. Like it or hate it this could very well be the future of art by diversifying the collectors, distributing the income over a larger spread and decreasing the risk. On paper it’s smart, in art I don’t know.
Liste was about the money though, from multiples of black and gold pugs by Maisenbacher Art Gallery who brought Black Angels to Art Amsterdam last year. Buy a copy for yourself for 100 EUR if you want. The same went for Stefan Strumbel who had German Pop Cookoo Clocks befit with guns, dead rabbits & skulls in a Avril Lavigne album cover sort of “punk” way. Again you can get smaller versions for a lower cost. The best version of this for me was the work of Gerard Mas who I have seen many times and the more I do the more i like. He works with a very low contrast, fragile and human figurines with porcelain blushed skin. Very exciting work and in the larger context of this show some of the best for me. Lino Lago had some of the best executed work for me in the show with his works that comment on the intersection of art and commercial support which was pretty blunt but very well done. I would like to follow his work more in the years to come. The only other theme in Liste and Berlin in general was the undying love of Andy Warhol who was echoed in countless works in almost every show which was cute at first and quickly became “Where’s Waldo” with each show. Heiner Meyer did it this time for Liste.
Dritte is Art Forum Berlin:
Art Forum Berlin which is the anchor of the Berlin art fairs was also it’s weakest link for me. The work was largely the same, very bleak, very black and white, very depressing, very………. German? At least that is what I was told by many Germans I spoke to in regards to the show. Many liked it, many didn’t but all agreed this is how it works here. In fact the consensus was that Art Forum was large, powerful, stark and cold while Bridge Art Fair: Berlin was colorful, playful, young and fun. I had many conversations to this effect. Art Forum was also rather small since one wing was established art, one huge wing was young and independent art and the back was magazines, books and cafe. All in all alot of pomp but nothing really solid. The independent artist area also was quite disappointing. It was very lean on physical work with white walls, big pillows to sit on and florescent lights being largely the only visual that sticks in your mind when you leave. The work was exceedingly minimal and many were just one installation shows or videos of flash animation. Overall not one of the best uses of independent space. All in all the show was easily missed and not anticipated in 2009. Oh and Warhol was alive and well here as well.
Last but not least is Bridge Art Fair Berlin:
It needs to be said that I will have to be limited on my praise or crituque of Bridge since I am associated with them but can express that for a first showing in Berlin the work was strong and a great contrast in location, style, attitude & execution to the other shows. Based in East Berlin where the true up and coming art world is strong and growing Bridge put on a colorful, exciting and fresh show that for a first year was well reviewed. With performances by Momus which brought people from everywhere and Galleries with work unseen in Berlin it was a show not to be missed.
All in all an interesting series of shows in Berlin but not some of the worlds best sadly.
August 24, 2008 · Print This Article
Break out the caviar and pop the champagne- this week Bad at Sports celebrates is 3rd anniversary with its 156th episode!
This week: Patrica hosts Brian, Christian Ehrentraut, and Martin Kobe for a conversation over blueberries, wine, and tea. They discuss the rise of Berlin as the new fashionable European art hot-spot, the Leipzig painter phenomenon, a German view of American cities, and and why it is important to promote quality painting in the face of the market. Christian Ehrentraut is a Berlin-based art dealer and director of Christian Ehrentraut Gallery. Martin Kobe is a painter whose architectural surfaces balance on the brink of collapse. Read more