Magazine article Sculpture

Gereon Krebber: Shift Capacity

Magazine article Sculpture

Gereon Krebber: Shift Capacity

Article excerpt

Pigeon deterrents, glue, nylon, marijuana, film, spray paint, wood. Such are the materials listed for Gereon Krebber's Let's talk about it later (2010). Without a doubt, Krebber loves materials that we would not expect in an art context. If we were to tally up all of the substances he has used, the list would be long- and there would be nothing to indicate that these are sculptor's materials. We would find such things as plastic wrap, polyurethane foam, tape, Styrofoam, Post-it notes, burnt wood, epoxy resin, plastic tubing and bicycle inner tubes, chewing gum, oatmeal, sugar, gelatin, beef gullets, black spaghetti, and pigs' ears, feet, and tails. Although Krebber also uses traditional materials such as steel and concrete, they mostly serve to support and stabilize his sculptures or to form a hard core beneath outer skins of plastic wrap or masses of polyurethane foam.

This diversity of materials corresponds to the multitude of formal possibilities that Krebber allows himself. Classic variants of the abstract modern-organically rounded forms on the one hand, and geometrically constructive hard edges on the other- coexist in his work. This may reflect the influence of his teachers-Hubert Kiecol, with his formally strict, architecture-like, concrete sculptures, and Tony Cragg, with his elegantly turned biomorphic structures- at the renowned Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, where Krebber has also taught since 2012. But the way in which Krebber adapts these languages reveals decisive differences, a penchant for breaking up abstract, Modernist formalism with gusto and irony. His biomorphisms are not smooth, elegant, and rounded like the familiar works of Henry Moore or Hans Arp. Rather, they display chapped, cracked, charred, and wounded surfaces. Krebber's bizarre forms wind through stairwells, surge through window openings, and squat on ledges like gigantically enlarged worms or mutant, gargantuan insect cocoons spun from sticky threads. Some of his creatures display obscene body parts such as withered snouts, trunks, or anuses. And even when Krebber places brightly colored, strictly geometric floor works in a gallery, a closer look reveals these purported descendents of Minimalism to be highly precarious formations made of gelatin: a slimy Jell-O that seems to be waiting for someone to slip on it. In a cunning way, these works revive the old joke that sculpture is the thing that one stumbles over when trying to gaze at a painting.

As we converse, Krebber expresses amusement about two contrary types of criticism that he hears now and again. Whereas some commentators see, at best, a sense of humor in his works and, at worst, silliness, others find them egghead intellectual and hard to understand. We may better approach Krebber's work if we try to think of these two opposing views at once, asking ourselves what ingenious artistic concept makes it possible for the same object to trigger contradictory associations, coming across as beautiful and repulsive, cute and threatening, sublime and ridiculous. In the case of Mimi (2011), made of burnt and perforated plastic sacks, the silhouette recalls a cute toy cat one minute; the next minute, it appears as a vulgar little phallic man. Then there's Bean (2009)-Krebber's largest work to date, 16 meters of acrylic resin, Styrofoam, and steel. On the one hand, it is a child's dream, a bean shoot that stretches to gigantic heights in search of light, as if it had come directly from Jack and the Beanstalk. On the other hand, considering its installation at the Biocenter, University of Cologne, it may be regarded as a metaphor for scientific megalomania and biotechnology's nightmare consequences.

Krebber is interested in precisely these ambiguities, ambivalences, and transgressions. They feed knowledge that benefits the viewer: How do we perceive something as something else? What schematizations does our cognitive system provide for accomplishing this? What selection of features guides us as we look and recognize, what memories and associations play a role, and what causes a certain way of seeing things to suddenly flip into another, possibly contrary, interpretation? …

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