Kassel may be this continent’s art world sweetheart until September, but Berlin, in a petty rage directed towards its pretty, provincial cousin, has mounted a slew of really ambitious (and quite bawdy) summer shows, upending the notion of the seasonal afterthought. Here are a few:
Isa Melsheimer’s show at Esther Schipper is a delicate sendup of the “urban island,” with steely structures, mirrored columns and small, scratchy, wolf-packed gouaches. She titles the show A Green Archipelago, in direct reference to Otto Matthias Ungers’ and Rem Koolhaas’ 1977 study Berlin as a Green Archipelago, and constructs a tapestry with Berlin structures colliding with a series of threaded islands. The display is lovely, and reminds me of Carol Bove, although the nature vs. industry icons seem a little heavy-handed.
The show Live End Dream No at Exile Gallery is a collection of paintings and collages from the criminally underrated artist Kazuko Miyamoto. Miyamoto, a founding member of AIR in New York and a frequent Sol Lewitt collaborator, is better known for her string installations, but her paintings executed in the 70’s (which gallerist Christian Siekmeier found hidden away in her barn/studio) exude a fresh and brushy minimalism that seems very “of the moment” (ew, sorry). Her paintings remind me in a fairly superficial way of New York Close Up artist Keltie Ferris in their spray-painted patterned whimsy. Miyamoto’s treatment of the surface is confident and unconcerned, and the works are brutally monochromatic, providing an interesting peek into the mind of a female auteur during a time of unquestionably male-dominated minimalism. I think she should be in the running for Art21’s next series of artist profiles (just throwing that out there).
A kind of exchange-exhibition titled “Reise Nach Jerusalem,” or “Journey To Jerusalem,” is on display at the Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien. In it, the world’s major religions (Islam, Judaism, Christianity) are explored with a certain intimacy of subject that is often autobiographical and/or documentary.* Benyamin Reich presents sexy, homoerotic biblical re-stagings, and Iwajla Klinke displays a series of partially obscured subjects in rich, ritualistic Catholic costume. The work in “Reise nach Jerusalem” is unapologetic about its pathos, which is nice, as similarly grouped shows can sometimes seem so clinically thematic in nature.
*While any dialogue about religion and taboo (as is the exhibition’s aim) is bound to be provocative, I was surprised when a group of American out-of-towners (all seasoned arts professionals) wondered if such a pointed show could be put on in the States. More on that below.
At the entrance to Larry Clark’s sprawling show at C/O Berlin (and at various subway stops across town) is a GIANT poster of a vagina with Larry’s name emblazoned in ink across it. Could that happen in the United States? Not unless the tattoo was a chastity promise and even then it would need Spanxx. And actually, no, it just wouldn’t happen. Which is a shame, because look:
The show itself lives up to its salacious entrance. It’s exciting to see Clark’s early photo work from his formative years in Omaha, which exposes Omaha as the shameful American meth-tropolis we all know it is. Meanwhile, down the street is another photo exhibition of one of my personal favorites, Diane Arbus. I haven’t gone yet, but I expect to find some sordid surprises.