Kritiki Kornerlö

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review of

Michael Krebber Catalogue Raisonné Vol. 1 by Michael Sanchez

The Manhattan Art Review
New York must be stopped


First of all, to „review“ the book (I got a review copy so now I’m making good on the review), it’s lovely object, beautifully designed, well-researched, and absolutely worth the money if you can afford it. There’s not a ton of text, as to be expected from a raisonné, but the commentary on particular bodies of work are thorough and helpful, and the intro essay does a very good job of outlining the fundamental mechanisms of Krebber’s career and practice. That’s about all I have to say about the book as an object, it’s great. Second of all, I didn’t really know that much about the fundamental mechanisms of Krebber’s career and practice before I read the intro essay. I’d seen some work here and there and knew he was a famously „bad“ painter, worked for Kippenberger, and that everyone loves him, but that’s about it. I usually assume that reputations are justly earned, and his work never seemed bad or exaggerated in merit, but it just seemed wry and funny; good, but I didn’t know what aroused so much passion in so many people. Or, to put it another way, Krebber seemed able to pull off what he was doing, but I couldn’t say what it was that separated him from his hordes of imitators, most of whom can’t.

Krebber’s own body work is a self-reflexive knot of self-conscious helplessness, elevated from the art student’s sense of inadequacy to the mock-heroic by the willed adoption of a constant „puberty in painting.“ His stubborn avoidance of overcoming his anxieties of influence, that he could not be Polke, Baselitz, Lüpertz, Kippenberger, or Oehlen with their technical mastery and artistic potency, led to eventually turning the inertia of artistic immaturity into a sort of inverted art practice. As I looked through the raisonné I kept thinking of Marx’s „first as tragedy, then as farce,“ which is probably more of a clever quip than a deep insight (I’m not a Hegelian), but it works as a convenient schema: If the great German painters born around the time of World War II are the products of a „tragic“ breakdown of modernity, then Krebber is the farce of that tragedy, and his fanboys are a farce of Krebber’s farce. Or, to attempt a clever quip, Krebber is instead a travesty, neither tragedy nor farce but a point between the two, which makes more sense, because Krebber can’t be a farce of his contemporaries in the doubled sequence of world-historic figures. He is part of the tragic generation but set apart from it by not adhering to their rules, something like the (debatable) idea that Duchamp and Cage were driven to innovate because neither was conventionally gifted at painting or composition, except that Krebber does not move the goalposts of artistic success. Instead, he holds the conventions of great art firmly in place, stubbornly repeating his failure to achieve them. These failures nevertheless develop an odd momentum of their own and hold the obscure appeal of his „badness,“ that he manages somehow to be a successful failure, a genius of lack as a foil to Kippenberger’s performance of art as a strongman’s pissing contest. It seems, however, that this failure succeeds precisely because he does not affirm itself as a new kind of success but instead remains self-deprecating. This is what the new crop of „bad“ artists does not have, a sense of shame at their impotence. The operation is the usual one; an artist is considered important for making work that was considered illegitimate in their time, which inspires a wave of younger artists to take inspiration from their recently canonized hero. But their hero is no longer illegitimate or cutting-edge, they are the new, up-to-date standard of taste for art students, so what was once a challenging subversion is now a safe, conservative affectation of cultivation and knowingness. Krebber differs again from this conventional avant-garde narrative because he considers himself illegitimate more than his audience does, which is what makes his work impossible to copy: those who copy Krebber consider Krebber good, which preemptively makes them fail at imitating Krebber. He makes a failed painting and sees it as a failure, they see his failure as a success, so they think their own failures are successes. If nothing else, this would simply make it far too easy to make art by negating the inherent ambiguity and struggle of artmaking, which underscores the question of how Krebber’s failures continue to succeed.

Without delving too specifically into the specifics of his artistic gestation, his years spent as an unproductive artist, trying to abandon art for theater, the creative breakthrough of working as Kippenberger’s incompetent fabricator, etc., the obvious through line of his artistic biography is the rigorous preservation of the conditions of the gestating artist into an active art practice. As evidenced by the title of the first text written on his work, „A Watershed Moment in the Biography of a Criticism Junkie“ by Albert Oehlen, this mental state of the ever-aspiring not-yet-artist is a critical one, the neurosis that comes from an overexposure to criticism, both in written criticism and internal self-critique that suppresses the emergence of the conventional artist’s confidence in their perspective. What this leads to is a paradoxical complexity in such unremittingly immature painting, failed brushstrokes made with the consciousness that they could have been otherwise, an avoidance of the task of great painting that is so persistent that it nevertheless traces the outline of greatness. Like Cézanne’s abandoned canvases and Kafka’s incomplete novels, Krebber’s paintings become an art of suggesting suggestion, a negative space that points toward a great idea outside the grasp of the artist’s abilities, a glimpse of what painting still holds at the horizon of possibility. The paintings themselves are nimble and inventive in their range of approaches in spite, or because, of their lack of technique; sidestepping painterly discipline makes formal ingenuity necessary, and his consistency of reinvention speaks to his earnest investment in this sort of „beginner’s mind“ anti-practice of artistically moving in place. Otherwise this way of working could very easily fall into the weeds of uninspired offhand repetition, a baked-in risk of any art practice but especially so in case of work that requires so little physical effort. And so it does; to somewhat inevitably trot out Eric Schmid as an example, his show at Triest from 2020 recreated Krebber’s 2003 show at Greene Naftali. Krebber’s originals are barely painted but develop into distinctive objects by a combination of simple decisions: using fabrics instead of white canvas, leaning the work against the wall instead of hanging them, draping the show’s poster over them. But Eric’s canvases are blank, which reduces Krebber’s system to an empty signifier of art without a signified, his only apparent decision being to hang folded Mickey Mouse blankets over three of the four canvases and a poster on the last one. The presumption seems to be that simply knowing Krebber’s work is enough to constitute another artwork, a belief that runs through much of the programming at the gallery: Post-Krebber, toys, garbage, and paintings that can be made in fifteen minutes are the essence of art as long as the artist presents them with an ironic smirk. This misses the point entirely, naturally, because it has always been and always will be exceedingly easy to be a bad artist, and exceedingly difficult to be a good artist. It can be easy to read Krebber’s legacy as license for the legitimation of stupidity in art, but he operates on a narrow margin of contradictory intelligence within stupidity, deep behind enemy lines, far be it from opening the floodgates of entitled dumbness as genius. Krebber being a good bad artist is no shirking of the responsibility to be a good artist; good art is always won by the skin of one’s teeth from the onslaught of everything bad.

(manhattanartreview wurde empfohlen von Sophia Rohwetter.)

JUBG Painting Groupshow in Cologne, Press Text Gunter Reski

worth reading ebenso:
Ulrike Draesner: In einer Jury sein

und diese Anzeige der Zeitschrift Triedere

Rettet das ZKF.
Wir brauchen unbestimmte Zeit.

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mehr von „The Manhattan Art Review“

Why Does The Whitney Biennial Suck So Much?

„(…) The content, then, is indifferent to itself and seems only concerned with a superficial imitation of conceptuality’s appearance. This is just one example, but almost every piece in the biennial asserts value by attempting to appropriate it from somewhere else. Salane exhumes a historical artistic gesture like a pinned butterfly, other artists claim meaning from their heritage or identity, some attempt novelty by using new-ish digital technology, many reference canonical artists in the hope that their invocation will elevate their own art, and the majority of the work is implicitly or explicitly political. This dependency on outside meaning is the most glaring with, of all things, the section of abstract paintings that fill the middle of the fifth floor. Visually, they’re mostly serviceable but entirely uninteresting imitations of painting from the middle of the last century, although the wall texts hold a surprise because every single artist was motivated by something other than painting. Rick Lowe, who uses dominoes as the basis of his entire practice, is the most concerning, but others paint inspired by jazz, breath, traditional cultures, the textures of leather, or the unfolding of queerness as opposed to normative endpoints (as if any art ever has an endpoint). In short, they’ve clung to anything they can get their hands on to avoid the fundamental state of painting, namely, drawing a line or applying a brushstroke and wondering to yourself if it’s any good. You know what inspired de Kooning? Paint, maybe alcohol. Or sure, he was „inspired“ by women, but it would be ridiculous to speak of his art in that way because in the ’50s a painting could still be seen on painting’s terms. He didn’t have to lean on the idea of woman to bring value to his work, the value came from his use of paint which stretched and reconfigured the possibilities of artistic representations of women. The surface to his approach is what wrought its depth. The art here is so concerned with presenting a depth of meaning that no attention is paid to the surface, and in doing so makes itself ineffectual.“

deepL (kostenlose Version):
Der Inhalt ist also gleichgültig gegenüber sich selbst und scheint nur mit einer oberflächlichen Nachahmung der Erscheinung der Konzeptualität beschäftigt zu sein. Dies ist nur ein Beispiel, aber fast jede Arbeit der Biennale behauptet einen Wert, indem sie versucht, ihn sich von woanders her anzueignen. Salane exhumiert eine historische künstlerische Geste wie einen aufgespießten Schmetterling, andere Künstler beanspruchen die Bedeutung ihres Erbes oder ihrer Identität, einige versuchen, durch den Einsatz neuartiger digitaler Technologien etwas Neues zu schaffen, viele beziehen sich auf kanonische Künstler in der Hoffnung, dass deren Anrufung ihre eigene Kunst aufwertet, und die Mehrheit der Arbeiten ist implizit oder explizit politisch. Am deutlichsten wird diese Abhängigkeit von der äußeren Bedeutung ausgerechnet bei der Abteilung mit den abstrakten Gemälden, die die Mitte des fünften Stocks ausfüllen. Optisch sind sie meist brauchbare, aber völlig uninteressante Imitationen der Malerei aus der Mitte des letzten Jahrhunderts, obwohl die Wandtexte eine Überraschung bergen, denn jeder einzelne Künstler wurde durch etwas anderes als die Malerei motiviert. Rick Lowe, der Dominosteine als Grundlage für seine gesamte Praxis verwendet, ist der auffälligste, aber andere malen inspiriert von Jazz, Atem, traditionellen Kulturen, der Textur von Leder oder der Entfaltung von Queerness im Gegensatz zu normativen Endpunkten (als ob jede Kunst jemals einen Endpunkt hätte). Kurz gesagt, sie haben sich an alles geklammert, was sie in die Finger bekommen konnten, um den grundlegenden Zustand der Malerei zu vermeiden, nämlich eine Linie zu ziehen oder einen Pinselstrich aufzutragen und sich zu fragen, ob er gut ist. Wissen Sie, was de Kooning inspiriert hat? Farbe, vielleicht Alkohol. Sicherlich wurde er auch von Frauen „inspiriert“, aber es wäre lächerlich, so von seiner Kunst zu sprechen, denn in den 50er Jahren konnte man ein Gemälde noch im Sinne der Malerei betrachten. Er musste sich nicht auf die Idee der Frau stützen, um seinem Werk einen Wert zu verleihen, der Wert kam von seiner Verwendung der Farbe, die die Möglichkeiten der künstlerischen Darstellung von Frauen erweiterte und neu konfigurierte. Die Oberfläche seines Ansatzes ist es, die seine Tiefe hervorbringt. Die Kunst hier ist so sehr darauf bedacht, eine Bedeutungstiefe darzustellen, dass der Oberfläche keine Beachtung geschenkt wird, und macht sich damit selbst unwirksam.

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