BY Patricia Grzonka in Reviews | 06 JUN 99
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Issue 47

Muntean / Rosenblum

BY Patricia Grzonka in Reviews | 06 JUN 99

Markus Muntean and Adi Rosenblum have become known principally as curators of the now-defunct project room Bricks & Kicks in Vienna, for which they organised a series of group shows within an architectonic space.

For this show, they collaborated on a series of acrylic paintings - large-scale translations of their earlier book-sized images and text collages. The paintings depict young, slim, urban people, staring directly out at the viewer. Their poses and fashionable clothing suggest that they are part of the cultural scene - a typical hip gallery crowd. A young man in a cyclamen-coloured shirt, standing on a balcony above a street jammed with traffic, has the melancholy thought: 'They could arrest me for everything I like about myself'. One looks for connections between text and image, but the images are isolated, without any real narrative context. Absolute meaning is constantly thwarted, throwing the viewer back on random associations. The comic genre with which Muntean/Rosenblum play - which in the German-speaking world has a far weaker tradition than in Anglo-Saxon countries - is perfectly suited to dismantling one's expectations of an image's possibilities.

Working like modern copyists who have yet to develop their own art language, the artists attempt to create new applications within existing idioms, and their formal framework makes it possible to reprieve unfashionable stylistic elements and discourses in art. In the gallery entrance stands a three-metre-high, beige-grey, baroque-like cloud constructed of Polystyrene and plaster. Muntean/Rosenblum have reanimated the once universal emblem of apocalyptic threat - the atomic bomb - giving it new meaning. For them, it is not only a lasting symbol of catastrophe anxiety, but also a sign intrinsically connected to 'big' emotions. Presenting a mushroom cloud as a monument in the gallery is of course, self-consciously cynical, but it is also a played-down gesture, as if the potential danger of today's art could easily be extinguished and banned to the realm of fiction.

In the accompanying drawing series 'Needless to Say' (1999), one again encounters lonely protagonists wearing Nikes and T-shirts. This time they are juxtaposed in almost grotesque poses with worn-out technical appliances. A girl kneels as if in prayer by a parked car; with a meaningful shrug of his shoulders, a young man opens an empty refrigerator: these pathetic physical gestures emphasise the banality of the pre-apocalyptic everyday. But as well-informed recyclers of visual codes, Muntean/Rosenblum do not confine their area of observation to conventional everyday terrain, like fashion magazines or advertisements. Rather, they incorporate the sidelined field of Christian iconography - scars and mysterious stigmata on beautiful bodies become profane variations of Christ's wounds. With this shift, which draws on the aesthetic surface of our surroundings, Muntean/Rosenblum pursue a cosmetic form of decontextualisation.

Translated by Michael Robinson