Gunther Forg: GREENE NAFTALI
Hudson, Suzanne, Artforum International
A fixture of the storied Cologne scene of the 1980s, Gunther hirg is still recognized in this country for what he produced during chat formative decade: Blinky Palermo-inspired paintings on lead, whose puckered surfaces register raw materiality, even as the monochrome bands applied to the supports provide a sensuousness that all hut negates the lead's astringent qualities. Given the rough-hewn sophistication of these works, it is perhaps unsurprising that they are the output for which Forg is chiefly known. Yet they may also loom so large because Forg has not had a solo show in New York in over a decade, which has had the infelicitous effect of reifying his prior engagements. This recent exhibition at Greene Naftali, his first at the gallery, should therefore go some way toward bringing Forg into the present for American audiences on other, less decisively historical (that is to say, historieist) terms. If anything, the abstract canvases m this show, all made between 2007 and 2009, are unencumbered by reference or metaphysics; instead of revisiting modernism or Forges own past efforts, rhey aspire to a kind of presentness trained on the here and now.
This is not to suggest, however, that the works at Greene Naftali represent an uncharacteristic or unmoored position. On the contrary, they are very much in tune with the artist's performance of selfhood, simultaneously on conspicuous display elsewhere (Forg recently enjoyed the company of Martin Kippenberger and others in rhe Museum of Modern Art's contemporary galleries1 "Cologne in the 1980s" room). Via the display of the artist's signature in the top corner of each canvas, the works exhume the cult of personalis, and, more significantly, rhey take up the elemental act of painting, so critical to Forg's work from the lead paintings on. A kind of Twom-bly-esque scribble in many works evinces the brushstroke, pictorialiing the activity of artmaking. Like Twombly's scrawl, which frequently approximates language without performing a semantic function. …