Opening—3 Nov 2023, 6 to 9 PM
Talk 7 PM
The work of Queer photographer – and one of the key figures of the New York punk and art scene – Jimmy DeSana (1949–90), who died of an AIDS-related illness at the age of 39, is still not as widely known as it should be. The retrospective exhibition, which opens at Meyer Riegger in Berlin on Friday 3 November, brings together over 50 works from all phases of his brief career, from the ’70s to the late ’80s, combining themes of sexual liberation and Queer aesthetics with the consumerist conformity of the American Dream.
”I don’t really think of that work as erotic, I think of the body almost as an object. I attempted to use the body but without the eroticism that some photographers use frequently. I think I de-eroticized a lot of it but that is the way the suburbs are in a sense.”
Jimmy DeSana on his series Suburban
On the occasion of the exhibition opening on Friday, 3 November, there will be a talk with AA Bronson, Antje Krause-Wahl, Christian Liclair and Evan Tepest on 7 pm.
The conversation will focus on the historical, political and aesthetic references in the work of the Queer American photographer Jimmy DeSana, who was active in New York during the 1970s and 80s in the context of the AIDS crisis. The talk will be recorded and published as a podcast.
Opening—3 Nov 2023, 6 to 9 PM
A certain trompe l’oeil logic informs this new work by John Miller, derived from two earlier PowerPoint pieces: Walking in the City (2017) and Civic Center (2022). French philosopher Michel de Certeau’s eponymous essay inspired the first. It features mostly overhead closeups of sidewalks along with de Certeau’s characterization of the city as “an immense texturology.” The second, shot in Lower Manhattan’s Civic Center district, focuses on the proliferation of police barriers that initially appeared after 9/11 and metastasized following 2020’s Black Lives Matter demonstrations. These barriers attenuate the movement of anyone who walks in the city.
Miller explains his work thus: “I am drawn to textures because they can convey the haptic nature of urban life, especially the pedestrian’s apperceptive experience of architecture. The literalized surfaces of Cubist collages likewise exemplify haptic shock. The collision of montage underscores this. Trompe l’oeil tricks, though paradoxically suggesting depth, ultimately lead the beholder back to the uneasy shallowness of signage and images.”
John Miller (1954, Cleveland, USA) is an artist, critic and musician who has challenged the conventional approaches of conceptual art since the early 1980s. In his extensive and multi-layered oeuvre, Miller repeatedly counteracts the longings of Western consumer society. With his eclectic approach and his sceptic as well as ironic artistic strategy, he explores the autonomy of the work of art while examining the myth of artistic genius. The result is an intelligent and humorous commentary on identity, economy, culture and socio-political issues that constantly questions established values. Miller lives and works between New York and Berlin.
You've Got Big Hands
Opening—3 Nov 2023, 6 to 9 PM
Lin Olschowka’s paintings offer us glimpses of a world that we would not necessarily wish to live in at first glance: the surroundings are cold, the light harsh and the bodies resemble interchangeable objects rather than characterful subjects. One image shows a young, white, conventionally attractive woman in a bikini in an open tanning bed. In another, a glaring beam from a helicopter forms a cone of light in the darkness. Another painting presents the cut, bloody palm of a fleshy hand.
One way of entering the pictorial world Olschowka creates with her paintings on canvas and wood is through the dark green curtain Delft 2 (2023), which the artist borrowed from Jan Vermeer’s Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window (1657–59). For decades Vermeer’s painting contained a kind of “present absence”, an invisible picture within a picture. In 1979, an X-ray scan revealed that on the wall behind the girl was a portrait of a naked Cupid, the god of love, which had been completely painted over. In 2018, the decision was made to remove this additional layer of paint; an investigation had shown that it could have only been applied after Vermeer’s death. The image within an image has been apparent ever since. “I am interested in pictures within pictures and the act of making them visible,” Olschowka explains. Let’s follow her through the green curtain.
Most of Olschowka’s paintings are based on screenshots she captures with her mobile phone or computer. Selbstbildnis (2023) also depicts a white female body, this time in a futuristic-looking MRI scanner. The figure is naked, except for a pair of high-heeled shoes, and extremely elongated. The body seems unnatural: the breasts appear stuck on, while the poreless, unwrinkled, unblemished skin is illuminated by artificial neon light in green, yellow, and red – the body as a commodity, in the style of the British pop artist Allen Jones. Everything in this image is smooth, from the surface of the technical equipment to the body and the space surrounding it, which in its emptiness is more reminiscent of outer space than an examination room.
Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI for short, produces images of the body to detect abnormalities in organs that might indicate disease. Consequently, this technical device not only generates representations of the otherwise invisible interior of the human body; this diagnostic analysis can signify a real turning point in someone’s life by rendering a “present absence” visible. The machine and the artist have something in common in this regard: they both translate the body into images and make something visible that was already there but could not yet be seen or articulated. By structuring the work as a triptych, Olschowka emphasises the spiritual effect of the radiant tube, which almost seems as if it could suck in the body completely and spit it out into another world.
Olschowka’s images negotiate the relationships between present and future, visibility and invisibility, but also between knowledge and the lack of it: MRI images are not the only method that allow those who possess the knowledge to predict certain interpretations of the future; there are also coffee grounds, as in 5 Artists Who Stole Their Own Career (2023), or the lines on the palm of the hand, which can now – as Fixing Fortune (2023) illustrates – be surgically altered so that the life lines prophesy a more positive future.
In her works, Olschowka responds to the subliminally urgent power of the images that surround us both online and offline, the constant “present absences”, which she appropriates and situates in new contexts. By playing with the idea of making things visible – also in the sense of discovery and prediction – the painter confronts us with questions such as: What kind of future do we want to live in? Who possesses knowledge? Which present absences occupy our present – and which (perhaps still invisible) turning points do they make possible?
Lin Olschowka (b. 1995, Münsterlingen, CH) lives and works in Karlsruhe.