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  日期格式: 1/30/2012
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Beijing XYZ Art Gallery
2012.10.13 Saturday - 2012.11.10 Saturday
Opening Exhibition
10/13/2012 15:00
798 Art District, Beijing
+86 10 8459 9299 / +86(0)137 0110 4223
Tuesday-Saturday 11am-6pm
xyzf007@yahoo.com.cn / xyz@xyzartgallery.com

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Shadows / Highlights
Solo Exhibition by Axel Gerber

[Press Release]

Where and How Something New Emerges
by Christian Hufen

In spite of all gloomy prophecies to the contrary, the medium of painting has survived. On the other hand, who can still recall Joseph Beuys’s claim that the error already begins the moment an artist sets out to buy stretchers and canvas? In the new European art capital of Berlin, where renowned artists from Germany and around the world run their studios with the help of highly specialized staff, who, among other tasks, stretch and prime canvases, such a statement is now outdated. It currently seems that not enough paintings can be produced to satisfy the keen interest of international collectors and investors.

Axel Gerber took a detour to the German capital, but arrived in good time. Born in Zwickau in 1978 to a working-class family, he completed his basic studies at the Städelschule art academy in Frankfurt and then moved to the Universität der Künste in Berlin. Here he studied with Professor Bernd Koberling, who enjoys an outstanding reputation as an art teacher. The intensive studio discussions and critiques with this representative of non-figurative, gestural painting left its mark on the pictorial sensibility of the young artist. Painting classes also offered a collegial environment, one that provided initial contact with the productive, urban art scene. In the studio of Anselm Reyle and as a long-standing staff member of Thomas Scheibitz, Gerber experienced first-hand the contemporary art world. His first solo show in 2003 was entitled No more less! – a profession of support for unrestrained, sensuous painting versus its conceptual reductionism. He subsequently exhibited new works in group shows of the booming gallery scene (Die Falltür zur armen Welt; Beton, Wurst und andere Teamgeister; Nacht der süßen Bienen) and in his second solo exhibition Schock & Schonung (2010); the offbeat titles reflect the change of tone in Berlin over the past decade.

The huge success of Georg Baselitz and Gerhard Richter has undoubtedly boosted the confidence of East German painters. Especially influential have been Richter’s stylistic variability, his image atlas as a compendium of contemporary motifs and the experimental creation of abstract imagery. Younger artists like Eberhard Havekost and Scheibitz, who achieved their breakthrough in the 1990s, formally and conceptually followed in their footsteps. Carrying forward the modernist tradition through original, well-crafted and soundly-executed pictorial inventions – this is also Axel Gerber’s central concern. Another connection to the aforementioned artists is his roots in Saxony, home to Protestantism, the spread of which was particularly influenced by painting. Gerber, however, broke away early from the Saxon academy tradition of the constructed, thoroughly-painted picture, which is also characteristic of the Leipzig figurative technique of a Neo Rauch, albeit an exceptional, anti-modern case.

“Perhaps it’s good to take a leap. No commitment; no rigidity; flexibility. And then give it further thought …,” so reads a note from his Frankfurt years. Spontaneity and chance are the creative principles that Axel Gerber, who had already learned how to accurately draw and paint as a teenager, borrowed from Western contemporary art. Through improvisations on landscape themes and experimenting with materials, as well as through the inspiration provided by the Icelandic pictures of his professor, he came to adopt an open style of painting. Gerber applies thin pigments to paper and canvas, thereby achieving luminous tones, gradations of color and blurriness as well as accentuating the material structure of the medium. After preparing the surface in this fashion, he then paints over it using muted colors. A sparse number of expansive lines, along with dots, splotches and planes arranged side by side and above one another with vistas into the more or less obscured, intensely colorful background, create the ill usion of landscape. During the working process, bold gestures are often moderated or wiped off, vivid colors diluted and sections arranged in a staggered pattern by color space occasionally reversed – until the elements produce a coherent whole. Laid-on highlights of color complete the polycentric composition, which features spatial depth and seems to float. As if moving toward the viewer, the picture makes its presence felt. The small-format painting Fluffy Endings (2012) presents all these elements in concentrated form and in harmonious equilibrium – a world in a state of suspension, as if seen from the perspective of a skateboarder in mid-air.

What can bring about a renewal of painting? In the view of Axel Gerber, it takes a fundamental willingness to examine in artistic work all the impressions made upon someone living in a Western metropolis – visual stimuli as well as social experiences. He collects pictorial material that documents the phenomenon of accelerated, technologically-aided perception. A romantic gaze at the moon interests him less than a neon-lit parking lot at night where youths are practicing parkour – and being photographed for a glossy magazine. He attempts to intensify the luminosity of colors and to incorporate multiple light sources in the picture. The bold use of chiaroscuro in the smallest of areas, as well as the alternation between matte and lustrous finishes, enhances the intensity. From the arsenal of urban forms Gerber appropriates gridded facades, bars, aggressive zigzags and splashy circles. Even the filth and ugliness are pictorially represented as splotches or roughly-worked sections. “The Situationist International, the city, the plan, the smears …” – scraping and smudging also have their place in this open style of painting.

Axel Gerber is a contemporary Germany painter who seeks to reconcile opposites – city and nature, form and indistinctness, fine craftsmanship and brash gestures. He accomplishes this with quite a degree of wit. The painting Deepwater Horizon (2010) features a white sphere hanging in solitary splendor, more hallway lamp than reactor dome, whose surface reflects gathering storm clouds. Toxic sludge escapes an indiscernible cooling pond; plumes of smoke billow upward. The end of the world comes across as a case of cool painting: cascading out here are rivulets of color, meticulously painted and arranged in a spectrum. Painting as a kind of contamination? Another picture in the same series (Quartz, 2011/12) depicts the frostbitten ice skater from an illustrated story by Wilhelm Busch. Here Axel Gerber also aligns warm colors around a white, cool center. Decline and failure as the beginning of something new? The poor devil cuts a good figure, and it’s also a brave painter that dares to dance on ice.