Archive for Berlin galleries

Venetian Red in Berlin: John Finneran at Upstairs Berlin

Posted in Contemporary Art, Fine & Decorative Arts, Liz Hager, Painting, Travel with tags , , , , , on October 27, 2008 by Liz Hager

By LIZ HAGER

John Finneran, Night Fence (Backgrounds), 2008,
Oil and enamel with nails on aluminum, two panels, each approx. 84 x 96 cm.
(photo © Liz Hager 2008)

John Finneran, Night Fence (Backgrounds), 2008,
Oil and enamel with nails on aluminum, two panels, each approx. 84 x 96 cm.
(photo © Liz Hager 2008)

Berlin is on its way to becoming the Hauptstadt of contemporary culture. It’s already a magnet for collectors and young American artists, many of whom call it home, if temporarily.

John Finneran seems to be an example of the kind of younger American artist who has found Berlin a sympathetic milieu.  His work is physically big in the way that so much of gallery-oriented emerging art so often is, and he’s clearly focused in on the elements that tend to facilitate commercial success (one of which is good representation in the European markets). Since completing his BFA at Cooper Union in 2002, he’s kept to a rigorous schedule of a show a year, mostly in New York, where he lives. Admittedly I was unfamiliar Finneran’s oeuvre, when I walked into Upstairs Berlin.  His new work definitely caught my attention, and prompted me to investigate more deeply.

Finneran’s use of aluminum as a substrate, while no longer revolutionary in the world of art, achieves what a similar work on canvas could not—it provides a subtle luminosity that perfectly complements his overall somber palette. The glazing technique seems to be new in this year’s works, though not with these pieces in particular.  It’s a technique that is extremely effective in creating an overall murky, if not mysterious, tone in the work. Vestages of figural gestures remain embedded in the abstraction—noses, mouths, eyes—although they are more shrouded by the abstraction than in earlier work. Further, in stapling or riveting the sheets together to form a larger surface, Finneran proves (once again) that craft can be an eloquent partner to abstract art. Additionally, the canvases are irregularly-shaped—some sport mildly uneven edges, others, like the one above, sprout cock’s combs. This adds a modicum of whimsy to the pieces, a sly antidote to his restrained palette. Finally, the artist has dispensed with the frame, a time-honored technique that breaks down the barrier between canvas and viewer, by suggesting an endless picture plane.

Finneran’s execution engaged me, and I paused a bit more than usual to ponder what the artist might be trying to communicate with it. In this department I admit difficulty. I could quickly summon the panoply of artists that might have influenced Finneran, but was having trouble figuring out whether what he appeared to be saying was new or unique.  Still I remain interested enough to see where the artist might go from here.

Upstairs Berlin certainly took a risk in mounting this young artist’s first solo exhibition. My sense is that it might not have paid off today, but certainly Finneran is an artist to watch. His willingness to experiment with a range of media and techniques will serve him well as he continues to develop his voice.

Wider Connections

More Finneran images

Saatchi & Finneran

Upstairs Berlin

Venetian Red in Berlin: Armin Göhringer at Galerie Gerken

Posted in Contemporary Art, Fine & Decorative Arts, Liz Hager, Sculpture, Travel with tags , , , on October 23, 2008 by Liz Hager

By LIZ HAGER

Armin Göhringer Untitled, 2004,
Blackened wood, 72x80x14cm

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.

Wider Connections

More Göhringer work

Still more Göhringer work

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