Thomas Scheibitz: A Panoramic View of Basic Events
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery - New York
Paintings Aren’t As They Appear
By Stephen Truax
Thomas Scheibitz appears to be a straightforward Modernist artist resembling the classic painter-sculptor-collage artist model à la Matisse or Picasso. Scheibitz’ presentation is conspicuously simple. The artist’s seventh solo at Tanya Bonakdar consists of modest-sized paintings, (markedly smaller than the oversize work for which he’s known), two freestanding sculptures, preparatory drawings/collages and framed prints. Each of the 16 preparatory drawings (Worksheets, all 2011) displayed on a sculpture-like table illustrates the process he uses to develop his enigmatic paintings. The forms and compositions recycled throughout his oeuvre purport to be nothing more than that: garden-variety, landscape-based abstraction. We are asked to take his practice at face value. However, to read this enigmatic conceptual artist as merely a painter/sculptor would be missing the point entirely.
A lexicon of abstract forms and a consistent color palette links all three of the 43-year-old German artist’s practices, emerging from a long progression from landscape painting to pure abstraction, not unlike The Bay Area Figurative Movement, especially the landscapes of Diebenkorn and Thiebaud. However, where Diebenkorn’s pictures from the 1960s were laboriously worked and display the angsty effort and self-doubt of their maker, Scheibitz’ hand is light and brushy, almost effortless-though not effortless in a Zen-like-Mary-Heilmann way but more like the predetermined composition and choreographed brush strokes merely appear effortless.
Simple geometric forms populate Scheibitz’ paintings: globes, cubes, arrows, pyramids, diamonds, boxes, spades and, in this show, numerals and punctuation marks. Painted slightly 3-D with shadows and shading, the objects exist in unique interior (architecture) or exterior (sky) environments. Unbroken painted lines can be four or five feet long, holes in large gray over-painting are placed just so, perfect gradients are constructed in straight horizontal painted lines, drips cross boundaries with such exactitude they appear intentional. His paintings aren’t so much “discovered” (through the mystical intuitive process described by the Abstract Expressionists) as designed.
It is telling that since Scheibitz’ debut in the international art market with his 1999 solo at the ICA London, he represented Germany at the Venice Biennale in 2005 alongside conceptual performance artist Tino Sehgal and was included in the 2007 exhibition at the Tate Modern with two painters who have tested painting to its extreme limits. Anselm Reyle executes a critique of painting with his sculpture-like re-creations of iconic Modernist works, and Manfred Kuttner’s eye-boggling, bilaterally symmetric geometric abstraction in non-art materials tests painting’s boundary with design and craft. Just within this context we must look at Scheibitz outside the realm of the classic painter-sculptor.
As it turns out, Scheibitz is heavily involved in graphic design. He often publishes his own catalogues or is deeply involved in their design; in 2003, Scheibitz opened his own publishing company, DIAMONDPAPER, with Karsten Heller. Scheibitz also works closely with galleries and museums on the layout and design of his own exhibitions. The same is true at Bonakdar; the glass-topped table that displays his drawings is clearly custom-made in the language of Scheibitz’ sculptures, and one painting is mounted on an extreme diagonal and embedded in a frame-sized recession in the gallery wall. It is clear his practice is much more about questioning the medium of painting rather than blindly participating in the canon.
(January 12 - February 18, 2012)
Filed Under: Reviews