Critic’s Guide: Cologne

The editor of frieze d/e selects his picks of the current shows in the city

BY Dominikus Müller in Critic's Guides | 19 APR 16

Jacqueline Humphries, :):):), 2016, oil on linen, 2.5 x 2.8 m. © Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne; photograph: Simon Vogel 

Jacqueline Humphries
Galerie Gisela Capitain

14 April – 28 May

Seen from afar, US painter Jacqueline Humphries’ first exhibition with Galerie Gisela Capitain seems to contain your common or garden variety of abstract paintings. But as you come closer stencilled, smiley face emoji patterns appear: sometimes large, sometimes barely discernible; here used as a relief-style background, there as a pointillist dot. The artist is clearly playing with the space in which we consume images – whether it be a smartphone screen or an actual room – and the distance or proximity that allows us to decipher them. But Humphries, with a real-life zoom, is also smartly dealing with the formalizing of feelings and their substitution: stencils for expressions; emojis for emotions.

Andro Wekua, 'Anruf', 2016, installation view, Kölnischer Kunstverein. Photograph: Simon Vogel 

Andro Wekua, ‘Anruf’
Kölnischer Kunstverein

15 April – 19 June

For ‘Anruf’ (Call), Andro Wekua has partitioned the long, stretched space of Kölnischer Kunstverein with thick white walls, creating a clinical yet otherworldly setup: an artificial chamber lined with a bright pink carpet. On the back of one wall: an abstract, seascape of sorts, made in black and blue crayon, clashes almost comically with the carpet (Surface (Black Sea), 2015/16). The centrepiece of the exhibition, though, is an untitled work from 2014: a mannequin, suspended from the ceiling, its feet dangling a few centimetres above the ground. Its eyes are closed and its chin rests on a slab of polished black glass. Its left arm is a cyborg-like prosthesic claw; the ‘human’ fingers of its right hand occasionally, subtly move. There’s a creepy, puppeteer feeling about it (wires are left visible, leading away from the sculpture’s back). Faced with this man-machine assemblage; who is viewing whom? 

Anne Imhof, 'OUVERTURE', 2016, installation view Galerie Buchholz, Cologne

Anne Imhof, ‘OUVERTURE’
Galerie Buchholz

13 April – 21 May

For ‘OUVERTURE’, her first exhibition with Galerie Buchholz, Anne Imhof has presented a number of paintings and sculptural works and staged a eponymously titled performance: a group of actors marched through the gallery as if it were a catwalk; a girl hung out on a window bench shaving her belly, others sat along the walls drinking soft drinks, lounging on mattresses in the backroom, or spat out what looked like pips on the floor. The performance also featured live falcons, blinded by the head caps, either sitting on a baseball cup or paraded through the gallery. The press release talks about the racehorse Overdose who died in 2015, about the falcon’s upper beak that allows the bird to ‘rip apart the back of the skull of its prey’, about spit and saliva. The overall effect is disorientating and slightly disturbing; its style is brutal and grungey but also vulnerable.

Matthew Ronay, Verdant Virus, 2016, basswood, dye, flocking, plastic, steel, aluminium and canvas. 136 x 91 x 36 cm. Courtesy: Markus Lüttgen, Cologne

Matthew Ronay, ‘Dock, Berth, Antenna’
Markus Lüttgen

14 April – 28 May

Matthew Ronay’s ‘Dock, Berth, Antenna’ was the funniest show I saw during Art Cologne. The seven, brightly coloured pieces on view here can be described as very abstracted yet ‘bodily’  variations of linking, clinging together – of exchange and conjugation. How do things cohabit? How do they touch? And what does that mean? If these questions seem lofty, Ronay’s approach is playful and his strange reliefs, wall mounted assemblages and sculptures feel cheerily easy-going – whether it be the strange blue egg resting on a series of yellow-green feet (Berthed Boiling Ovoid Budding Green Feet, 2016) or the brightly colourful and fantasy spaceship-like object clinging to a deep blue canvas (Purple Atmosphere Dock, 2016).

Rana Hamadeh, Can You Make a Pet of Him Like a Bird or Put Him on a Leash For Your Girls?, 2014-15, LED panels, digitally woven Jacquard fabrics, brochures, archival newspapers, dimensions variable

‘Between One Time and Another’
Temporary Gallery

15 April – 19 June

‘Between One Time and Another’, curated by Berlin-based Jens Maier-Rothe, is part of a larger series of exhibitions by the curator on the notion of ‘projection’. Here, the included artists, Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc, Fadlabi, Rana Hamadeh and Kapwani Kiwanga, share a common interest in re-framing post-colonial perspectives by retelling colonial-era stories. Abonnenc’s film Ça va, ça va, on continue (2012) is about the representation of former Portuguese colonies’ struggle for independence, while Fadlabi’s About Menelik II (2016) is a wall painting depicting the 1896 Battle of Adwa where the Ethiopian emperor Menelik defeated Italian forces. Kiwanga’s play focuses on the myth of the so-called ‘Afrotunnel’, a tunnel underneath the Strait of Gibraltar (Strata (Technicolor), 2016) and Hamadeh’s immersive and at times almost violently loud sound installation/performance, Can You Pull In an Actor With a Fishhook or Tie Down His Tongue With a Rope? (2015), is based on the Ashura Ritual, an annual Shiite ceremony that re-enacts the 7th-century slaying of Shia cleric, Imam Hussain ibn Ali. Together, the works form what the press release calls ‘narrative textures’: A densely woven, open ended field of possible stories, rather than the one way street of hegemonic history.

Martin Soto Climent, 'Sexy Paradise', 2016, snake skin, leather and wood, 30 x 20 x 13 cm. Courtesy: the artist and DREI, Cologne

Martin Soto Climent, ‘Paradise’

15 April – 21 May

'Paradise' is Martin Soto Climent’s first solo show in Germany.  The show revolves around a group of small-scale, framed works exhibited on the concrete floor of the small gallery space. Some of them use laminate flooring tiles as a backdrop and, in-between the tiles, Soto Climent has tucked in or stuck through neckties or pieces of snake skin. Surrounding them a series of wall-mounted works reverses the conceit: covered with fabric or snakeskin these pieces form a sort of bulky cleavage or slub. Somehow, all the works breathe an air of luxury: a subtle and sublimated sensuality that still feels cheap and slapstick. As if someone took a pair of scissors to an investment banker’s tie, which has now become a tongue.

Dominikus Müller is a freelance writer based in Berlin.