Five to see: Berlin

Animatronic mice and art about Beckettian failure

Installation view of Sol Calero's Archivos Olvidados at ChertLüdde, Berlin. Courtesy the artist and ChertLüdde, Berlin. Photo by Andrea Rossetti.

A slew of shows opened in Berlin for the fifteenth edition of Gallery Weekend: to help you navigate the more than 40 galleries participating, ArtReview has picked out a few highlights. 

Sol Calero at Chert Lüdde
26 April (opening reception) to 15 June

Taking inspiration from an archive of magazine clippings compiled by her late grandmother, Sol Calero has transformed Chert Lüdde – via a suite of characteristically soft-hued paintings and murals set amongst rubber plants, twisting vines and colourful garden furniture – into something resembling a Venezuelan house and courtyard. The show reads like a celebration of artmaking as a communal (and in this case intergenerational) activity whose right place is the home and whose proper practitioners are, well, everyone. As such, the exhibition’s title – Archivos Olvidados (Forgotten Files) – could be taken to refer to the innumerable artworks excluded from the canon as well as the inherited scraps which Calero rearranges and reimagines. Which is itself a useful metaphor for the means by which a culture is transmitted.

Longan at House of Egorn
26 April (opening reception) to 15 June

The loss of a family member also lies behind Kim Heecheon’s Lifting Barbells (2011), in which the artist reconstructs the last moments of his father’s life using data recovered from the smart watch he was wearing when knocked from his bike. Uncomfortably compelling, the digital video sits alongside work by three other artists who in different ways address how each of us sees the world around us and is seen by it. Where Tong Wenmin and Evelyn Taocheng Wang explore the relationship between the individual body and a society that is apt to classify and thus control it, He Yida produces fragile sculptural assemblages out of found materials that attest to the scrappy theatre of the street. The show is curated by Aimee Lin.

Reinhard Mucha at Sprüth Magers
26 April (opening reception) to 27 July

Part of the allure of a new show by Reinhard Mucha is a curiosity about how an artist who has spent four decades paring sculpture ever further back from the skeletal forms of Minimalism and the literalism of archival installation can continue to make austerity interesting. One answer, perhaps, lies in the Beckettian humour suggested by the title of his new show at Sprüth Magers, Das Ende Vom Lied (The End of the Song); another, not entirely unrelated to the same playwright’s theatrical legacy, is the way in which the mechanical precision of his elliptical mises en scène serves to draw attention to the messiness of the world as it plays out in and around them. 

Stefanie Heinze, High Potency Brood, 2019. Oil and acrylic on linen, 150 x 280 cm. © the artist, courtesy Capitain Petzel, Berlin. Photo by Lepowski Studios

Stefanie Heinze at Capitain Petzel
through 8 June

Talking about Beckett, the press release for Stefanie Heinze’s solo debut at Capitain Petzel assures the reader that ‘failure is an integral part’ of the young German painter’s practice. Which kind of statement, the gallery should be aware, is an open goal for any embittered and cynical art critic (which is to say, most art critics) who might be suspicious of large-scale gestural paintings indebted to surrealism and best explained, in the artist’s own words, through such neologisms as ‘newsense’ (which is to say, most art critics). Fortunately, the charismatic energy with which the artist translates small-format scrapbook doodles – bearing evidence of collage, automatic drawing and corps exquis – is liable to protect her dreamlike work from any such cheap shots.   

Ryan Gander, I... I... I…, 2019. Animatronic mouse, hole in a wall, 19.4 x 24 x 28.2 cm (installation), duration 7 mins approx (animatronics). Courtesy the artist and Esther Schipper, Berlin. Photo © Andrea Rossetti.

Ryan Gander at Esther Schipper
through 15 June

Failure really is a part of the work of Ryan Gander, whose exhibition Some Other Life explores what it err… means… to be an artist in relation to that term. I... I... I… (all works 2019), the latest in a series featuring animatronic mice, features one such mammal popping out of its hole to attempt, and then fail, to deliver a (presumably profound) speech. It’s voiced, incidentally, by the artist’s daughter. That Gander’s work resides at various positions along the seesaw between the profound and the ridiculous (and more precisely, perhaps, at a point where the two are most proximate), is further demonstrated in Monkey See, Monkey Do, a 3-D greyscale rendering of Gaugin’s chair as painted by Vincent Van Gogh, complete with perspectival distortions (which render the chair non-functional) and a candle that blinks out every 20 seconds. Similarly, Embrace Your Mistakes... Your Mistakes Are the Markers of Your Time comprises 365 failed attempts to draw a candle at the moment before or after it is extinguished, scrumpled up, binned, retrieved, framed and placed on show. ‘They become better after being disposed of,’ says the artist, a sentiment with which Gerhard Richter has recently and publicly disagreed. And yet, as the seas fill with plastic and the skies with smog, perhaps Gander’s notion that art is nothing more than an affluence of effluent might be a more fitting paradigm for our times.

Online exclusive,  26 April 2019