Venetian Red in Berlin: Armin Göhringer at Galerie Gerken
By LIZ HAGER
As I walked from across the street, I spotted the tell-tale yellow banana discretely stenciled near the door of Galerie Gerken. Not that I was looking for this gallery in particular, but it amused me to actually see the “sign of the banana,” my first in Berlin. In preparation for this trip, I had consulted videos on Geobeats; at the onset of the episode on gallery crawling, the hostess let on that an artist from Cologne had gone around Berlin stenciling the banana on galleries he thought particularly good. But I didn’t know until I stepped into the Galerie Gerken just how reliable his recommendation would turn out to be.
On display inside was the latest work from Armin Göhringer. Göhringer was born in 1954 in Nordrach, Germany, one of those picture postcard municipalities nestled in the rolling hills of the Black Forest. (He still calls it home.) Wood working is a proficiency in the area, and no doubt this heritage pushed Göhringer to one of his media—blackened wood. What he wreaks from the material is inspiring, for the finished pieces recall ancient tribal artifacts, while embracing modern-day abstraction. Whether Göhringer is working in large scale appropriate for site work or on a small intimate level, an inescapable metaphor of his work is fiber—presented either as individual threads or as weaves (the work above). Achieving this effect is no small feat, as Göhringer starts with a solid block of wood and industriously carves to the void. The finished pieces artfully embody opposing characteristics—sturdy rigid building material and delicate pliable gauze. With some of the works at Galerie Gerken, the artist has cleverly pushed the fiber concept farther, shrouding the wood in hand-made paper.
The new pieces are smaller, and many are displayed on the wall. The lattice-patterned shadow formed behind the piece creates a contorted echo of it, a Doppelgänger of sorts. The effect emphasizes the totemic nature of the work—an animate spirit lies inside each of Göhringer’s works.