Magazine article Artforum International

Mahlergruppe: GALERIE CHRISTINE MAYER

Magazine article Artforum International

Mahlergruppe: GALERIE CHRISTINE MAYER

Article excerpt

Painting is the art of bringing something into being on a surface. This involves analytic, discursive, and sometimes subversive possibilities. Painting's formal attributes have been pursued to exhaustion in the history of the medium, but the sort of painting that lays claim to sociopolitical relevance has become somewhat rate. The field of the explicitly political has seemingly been ceded to other media and genres. How painting can now he practiced as a critique of our age without falling prey to the irony of the 1980s or drifting off into a moralistic position is evident in the work of the Mahlergruppe, which was founded in Munich in 2008. The name puns on "group of painters" (Maler| and the famous composer, as well as the verb "to grind," mahlen.

Visitors to the show "Look, navigate necessity" (Look. Navigation !s Necessary) were confronted by a series of large-format acrylic paintings and several sculptures that feature a dense mixture of motifs and figures taken from pop culture. The repertoire of figures ranges from such children's IV characters as SpongeBob, Square Pants and the familiar German icon Kapt'n Blaubar to the Kellogg's rooster, from the German pop star Herbert Gronemeyer and Hamburg hip-hop artist Samy Deluxe to Katy Perry, Prince Charles, and various members of the Munich art scene. The leveling treatment of fictional and real figures reflects the general mediatitation of the worid, in which Prince Charles really gets accorded not only the same degree of attention as SpongeBob but also a similar level of political relevance.

But the Mahlergruppe is not simply putting images on shuffle: Each painting has been put together as a specific setting dedicated to a characteristic theme of recent history: Spartacus (all works 2011) reflects the financial crisis and the 2007 bank run in London; Vintage presents the Berlin of the 1970s with motifs from the 1981 film Christiane F; Vic West, an aluminum cast of a rock star's vest, points back to a stereotyped notion of the '80s. …

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