20 JANUARY – 5 MARCH 2023

One of the very first nonfigurative monuments to be erected in Germany was not a product of the 20th century, but of the 18th, and was the brainchild of none other than Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. What has since come to be called “Der Stein des guten Glücks” (The Stone of Good Luck) sits today near Goethe’s former residence in Weimar. The monument is divided into two opposing but conjoined parts – a cube and a sphere that sits upon it – which were imbued with symbolic value, each standing for the opposite values of its connected other. The cube was an immovable force of stability, thought Goethe, which was opposed to the restlessness of the sphere, lacking clearly definable edges and the ability for it to rest on its own. The luck referred to in the monument’s adopted moniker, was the result of bringing these two contrasting forms together in a single work, holding them there in perfect dialectical tension.

For his solo exhibition in the Nave of St. Agnes, GOOD LUCK, Kris Martin has taken this early work of sculptural abstraction and turned it on its head, literally. In a reversal of roles, the erstwhile sphere now sits on the firmament, supporting the cube as it balances precariously above it. What is to be made of this inversion of the structural logic of Goethe’s monument, which was first planned as a tribute to Goethe’s unrequited love, Charlotte von Stein? In a concrete sense, Martin’s sculpture is the product of a revolution, flipping the world as it is, or once was, around, putting the very logic of a straightforward composition into perpetual doubt, disbelief. Such phenomena can only exist, as it were, as sculptures, for in nature, the stasis that Martin achieves is scientifically untenable. And yet, there it is, an object of pure impossibility, balancing inside of the massive central nave of the former Brutalist church. Seeing, it seems, is not necessarily believing. This gesture is not just an inversion of a prior type, it is also a fundamental rethinking of the sculptural object post minimalism, with its endless search for a transparency of work and experience. In this sense, Martin has managed to craft a purely conceptual work, not as document or linguistic interjection, but as a proposition in material terms. The world on its head, not new or imagined otherwise, just upside down, and with that, an invitation to rethink all that is taken for granted when a monument is encountered.

Finally, Martin has also prepared a work on paper that will hang in the Nave alongside his sculpture. Written in the artist’s blood, the words spell out “Beat us”, which can also be read as “beatus”, which means blessed or happy. Together, the conjunction of the two meanings of these words reflects the double-identity at work in the sculpture and in the exhibition as a whole, providing a more intimate presentation of the possibility of a single statement to signify opposing meanings simultaneously.

© Images Roman März