Kai Althoff: Kaiki
Noble, Kathy, Art Monthly
Focal Point Gallery Southend-On Sea 7 November to 28 January
Kai Althoff's work has rarely been exhibited in the UK (his first and only solo show was in 1997), so in many ways, given his status, it seems surprising that his second exhibition here is at Focal Point Gallery, situated in Southend-on-Sea's public library. Entitled 'Kaiki', the exhibition comprised painting, sculpture, video, drawing (and other ephemera from music and performance) selected by curator Saim Demircan. Althoff gave full control to Demircan, asking him to choose whatever he pleased from existing work, resulting in a kind of mini retrospective.
The main space was filled with a large wooden ski-style slope covered in nails. At the lower end sat a raggedy man in a suit, trousers half down, pink plaster bottom smeared in red paint, with a trail of 'blood' behind him, as if he had just been hauled across the nails. Opposite stood a man with the exact same plastercast face, arm stuck out horizontally tugging on a bell. Both wore outfits fashioned from existing shirts and trousers (each with a pink felt stomach poking out), supplemented with more elaborate hand-made felt coats and scarecrow-like wigs. Underneath the men were made from simple wooden blocks, but were just human enough for the scene (entitled Stigmata of Megalomania, 2000) to feel macabre, exuding an absurdist sense of humour.
Accompanying this sculpture were numerous paintings, drawings and sculptural collages, created mainly in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Untitled, 2004, depicted three spray-paint silhouettes of doves fl ying in a sky of burnished red and yellow. Serenely romantic, the contrast between this and the disturbing nature of the aforementioned sculpture was stark. The exhibition demonstrated Althoff's dramatic variations in style and influence; intricate watercolours (such as Untitled, 1999, in which the two fi gures from Stigmata of Megalomania brawled in a bar) were displayed alongside collages such as Untitled, 1999, which was made from shiny denim-like grey fabric stretched across Formica, with two smaller squares of black material pasted on top. The choice to situate Althoff's version of minimalism beside intricate scenes with a painterly language that echoes Marc Chagall, Otto Dix and Egon Schiele seemed odd, even though they were all made in 1999.
In the adjacent project space were a number of smaller paintings, the most intriguing of which were three watercolours (all gifts to his mother Ingrid), two entitled Untitled (Gift to Ingrid Althoff), 1999 and 2000, and the other Norma and Heather (Gift to Ingrid Althoff [dagger]), 1983. …