© Images KÖNIG GALERIE
30 APRIL – 20 JUNE 2009
Johannes Wohnseifer opened his 5th solo exhibition at Johann König, Berlin, with new sculptures, wall pieces, and photographs. Connected with each other formally as well as in content, the works investigate culturally shaped representational forms and transformation processes.
The series CANON (2009), a photographic documentation of historical and contemporary coffee-table books about the African continent, creates the frame for the exhibition. Using the principles of object photography, the book covers and pages work as a kind of contextual parenthesis for a sculpture series. Composed of seven shelf-like objects, each “shelf” is in turn made out of nine elements that correspond in form, color, and material exactly to those used by Gerrit Rietveld for his “Berliner Stuhl”. The De Stijl designer developed the chair in 1923 for his exhibition in the actual capital and brought it into the market as a do-it-yourself construction set, as he did with many of his license-free designs. Some shelves vary in the original gray-black-white palette of Rietveld's design. Others are lacquered in monochrome yellow, white, or red – colors in the standardized RAL- palette, used frequently by Wohnseifer in his works.
Formally, Wohnseifer uses Rietveld's asymmetry and plane composition, however, questions the logic of functionality. The free combination of the pieces gives way to bizarre forms which negate any function. The artist plays here with the idea of object “recycling”, a widespread practice in non-industrial countries, in which discarded materials with almost no more value are transformed into practical or also humorous products. In addition, Wohnseifer titles his transformed objects with street names pertaining to the African quarter in Berlin “Wedding”: “Sambesistraße”, “Dualastraße”, “Ugandastraße” and “Tangastraße” stand for uncritical appropriation of a very questionable part of German colonial history within the Berlin street scenery. The artist thus triggers notional links between Berlin and Africa and vice versa, which also come forth in the wall pieces from the series SHUTTER SHUTTER (2009). The aluminum pictures are reminiscent of blinds used to protect buildings from strong sun rays. Wohnseifer adapts the blinds' form but dissolves their materiality into abstract painting. Colorful, striped staccatos create moving images, whose effect also works, on a linguistic level, on the title SHUTTER SHUTTER. With this work, Wohnseifer sets a comment on the possible reception of the exhibition, which questions the culturally defined system of values and their reading.