Gallery Run: November 2007
The gallery Momentum, hidden away on a side street of the Mariahilferstrasse, in November hosted one of the "grand old men" of Austrian photography, Franz Simak. The two arched rooms of the small but lofty gallery presented works from 1972 until 2005, including examples of his famous "Ringer" series, "Farbschüttungen" and "Testbild."
Simak is a central figure of the 1970’s movement of conceptual photography that focused on the relationship of the object, the image and the position of the observer, and initiated an opening of the aesthetic space in photography.
What was immediately striking in this exhibit was the clarity of the retrospective. Down one wall, we followed the photographer’s path from the structured depiction of ORF television test screens in black and white to wide open landscapes with perspective golden yellow fields. Each wall had been designed intelligently, giving the visitor an organized overview of Simak’s work. The selection was diverse in size, quantity and imagery, ranging from small-scale pictures of static objects to larger, glossy photographs of bodies in movement.
The sharp images were visually pleasing, while emanating critical depth of the Zeitgeist of the 1970’s movement of conceptual photography to which Simak was a central figure. The group of artists focused on the relationship of the object, the image and the position of the observer and initiated an opening of the aesthetic space in photography.
The gallerists Moritz Stipsicz, Anthony Hauninger, Nina Neuper and Valerie Loudon of Momentum treated his work respectfully and thoughtfully, demonstrating their engagement and fascination of the medium photography.
Saeko Takagi "Ripen"
Situated in the tourist heavy Gluckgasse in the 1st District, Gallery Frey is comprised of three clean, modern floors, with the main gallery at street level. Instead of presenting the main show here, the gallerists present a diverse mix of the gallery’s stable of represented artists.
Guided downstairs, this show of the young New York based Japanese painter consisted of approximately thirty small, Bonbon-colored canvases. Images of intricate branches painted in acrylics upon a pastel background confronted the viewer with an explosion of hues such as neon pink, lime green and sparkling purple. She highlighted naturalist depictions with seemingly accidental splashes of paint and resin adding an obvious third dimension. The Japanese influence is made apparent through references to contemporary comic style Manga figures as well as calligraphic Kitsch.
Though visually arresting and often charming, the paintings felt restricted by the unfortunate format, which seemed to stifle her artistic expression. The work did not achieve any kind of critical depth, reminding one more of the two-dimensionality of fabric design.
And yet perhaps the show was fitting for a commercial gallery like Frey, whose target audience is art buyers of appealing, decorative art that is presented in an elegant, appeasing and concrete environment.
Maik, & Dirk Löbbert
Galerie MEZZANIN GALLERY
From the outside, the lofty spaces of the Mezzanin gallery looked desolated during a visit in mid October, as if the installations for the show were still in progress. Even inside that impression remained, as the three main elements of Maik and Dirk Löbbert – a beige carpet, a metal chain hung from the ceiling and a very large cupboard painted a striking red – controlled the room.
Only on second glance, did one discover the black plus sign, created from two strips of gaffer tape glued onto the glass window of the gallery’s upper floor. Depending on your position, the sign changesd its shape and activated the room’s static architecture.
For their third solo exhibition at the Viennese gallery, the artist duo had developed a multi-part work, especially conceived for these spaces. This is what their work is about: filtering out the distinctive features of a place and creating a work in unity with its surroundings, implementing a translation of the space itself.
Visually minimal and highly conceptual, this show might have frighten the layman, which is a shame, because the work of the Löbbert’s actively engages in central ideas on art and its visual and conceptual environment, reminding us how significant the space is in which art finds its context.