Sunday, November 15, 2009
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Most of you are most likely aware that as of the morning of October 31st, on Halloween, I stepped on to a jet to Berlin by way of JFK. The flight overseas took less time than the accumulated time I spent in the airport lobbies awaiting my flights. But come 8:30 am, November 1st my Berlin flight touched ground and I set foot on German soil for the first time in 12 years. I was last in Germany merely in passing on my way from France to Prague, but this would be my first time ever in Berlin. Getting used to that first, expected alienation of a new country, new airport, and all but forgotten language I had not attempted to speak since 7th, maybe 8th grade. At least I was armed with "Sprechen Sie Englisch?", which to my great benefit typically bailed me out of a situation as most people I came across could at least speak some basic English. I very much felt embarrassed by my lack of knowledge of another language. Though the longer I am in Germany the more my French seems to be coming back to me, which is certainly not helpful at all. I find myself wanting to order or respond to a question in French instinctively. Quite sad...
(the residency if on the floor directly above the Jager Klause)
I am staying at the Takt Artist Residency in what I believe is part of old East Berlin. The residency resides in a building just above an old bar called the Jager Klause. While I have yet to set foot in this particular establishment, from the sounds that rummbles up into my room some nights, it would appear that they often have some loud bar bands performing and one night in particular bands of the surf variety. A bit odd.
Currently the residency is home to myself and 8 other artists from around the globe, all of which are girls. We have two girls here from the States, one from Canada, one from South Africa, one from Spain, one from Hong Kong, one from Ireland, and another from Uruguay. To my great luck, English happens to be the language of choice this month at the residency. I have very much enjoyed getting to know everyone so far and seeing and hearing about their projects and hometowns. It is this sort of communal bonding that made me opt to attend a residency such as this rather than simply finding an affordable studio space somewhere in the city.
(my live/work room)
There is something comforting about having other artists around you as you acclimate to your new surroundings. And it certainly took me some time to acclimate. To start, my cell phone simply will not work in Europe. Why it is I can call someone in Europe while I am in the states but once I am actually in Europe, I can not receive a signal, is simply annoying. To date, I have yet to pick up a track phone to use while here even though they are relatively cheap, but I expect in the next week or so I will probably get around to it. Other major hurdles my first couple days had to do with figuring out the public transportation system (not only how they work, their routes, but also how to go about getting a 1 month pass which is a must here), finding an International ATM machine as most places will not take American credit cards or debit cards, and how to go about getting groceries. I never quite thought about it before, but I have come to realize how much of my usual shopping has to do with visual memory or package design. My first time at the grocery store took me more than an hour to but 30 Euro worth of food as I was simply out of my element. I have since gotten much more comfortable with this as I tend to have to go to the same grocery every couple days.
On to the Art:
My first few days I had already been scouting out which art exhibitions I was needing to see before they closed. A number of the exhibitions were in their final days, so timing was vital if I wanted to see some fabulous shows. I set out in one day to hit 9 galleries and 2 museums, most of which were spread across the city. (I only ended up making it to 7 galleries and 1 museum that first attempt, so not too bad.) Rather than give you the full run down of the venues I went to and what I saw everyday, I will guide you through some of the highlights.
My first stop was to Galerie Max Hetzler for a fabulous drawing show titled, Access All Areas, organized by Arturo Herrera und Tanja Wagner. This show was quite impressive and I was very pleased to see the inclusion of Katharina Grosse, a personal favorite of mine. The works were quite varied in this show from large to small, from drawing with paint, to sculptural works, and slide projector works. This was a great start to my Berlin trip.
I then headed off to see a fabulous Adrian Schiess, solo exhibition at Galerie Wilma Tolksdorf Berlin. Seeing Adrians work in the context of a gallery, rather than in a museum as we saw it here in Indianapolis, was a great experience. This particular exhibition ranged from some of his smaller works on cavas, large digital prints on canvas, as well as one of his wall sculptures. I quite enjoyed this show and was pleased to catch it before it came down the following day.
I was hoping to catch the Joe Bradley show at the Berlin - Peres Projects but unfortunately got lost and the show closed before I could make it out there. Though I do expect I will check out their newest show in the coming weeks.
Quite possibly the most amazing gallery space I have ever set foot in, (the place is just beautiful on the outside and inside) and a gallery I have longed to visit, as I am a huge fan of most of their stable, was Contemporary Fine Arts Berlin, which was showing a show of Georg Baselitz, Dr.Freud und andere Musik. The paintings and sculpture look amazing in this space. I can only imagine that pretty much any work of art would look better in this space. I am looking forward now to their next opening.
The Thomas Demand show at the Neue Nationalgalerie, is possibly a great show at absolutely the worst possible venue for the work. This building is amazing. I love it from the outside but it is all windows. To put this show on, huge grey curtain walls are arranged throughout the space upon which to display the works. I arrived as the sun was low in the sky and just flooded the pictures with so much light that the glare made it near impossible to see the images and the colors well. And really, looking at this images hanging on large grey curtains was already painful and distracting enough. I heard there was a Jeff Koons show of sculptural works in this space that was amazing. And I bet it was. Large sculptural exhibitions would rock out in this space but unfortunately Thomas Demand couldn't.
I headed over to check out the Deutsche Guggenheim, where they had a show of Julie Mehretu's exhibition Grey Area. I was disappointed to find out that a couple weeks before I arrived they had a show of works by Blinky Palermo, Joseph Albers and others that I would have loved to have seen but this show was much more impressive than I thought it would be. I have only seen her work in books and magazines up till now and it just does not do the work justice. Overall this was a nice exhibition but I was surprised that the venue was smaller than I had expected it to be. Seems nearly half if not more than the entire space is made up of the ticket lobby and the gift shop.
What might be one of the most unique and interesting museum like venues I have been to was the Hamburger Bahnhof. The space is just amazing and the collections in which they house are phenomenal. This place houses several extensive collections of works by many contemporary greats. One section housed dozens of Joseph Beuyes works. I easily spent a good three hours there and plan on visiting again before I come back. To call this a museum may be a bit misleading. It is something of the Kunsthalle or some other type of venue. But, if ever in the area, be sure to visit this space. And they have an amazing bookstore I could have easily dropped hundreds of euros in. I showed great restraint by only buying one book, Joe Fig's, Inside the Painters Studio. (Oddly this was a book I was planning on ordering before I left for Berlin but was afraid it would not arrive before I left. I have had the book only a week and am 90% through it. I highly recommend it to all artists and particularly painters.)
A special shout out goes to Marc LeBlanc, an exChicago curator who is now living in Berlin and watching over Chicago's Kavi Gupta Gallery's new satellite space in Berlin. Marc has been very helpful while I have been in Berlin, with some ever handy gallery guides and maps, some tips on some very interesting venues and exhibitions and some general getting on in Berlin advice. He was also quite helpful and forthcoming before I even arrived. So thanks Marc, much appreciated.
Well, outside of spending hours walking around Berlin and looking at art, parks and architecture I have actually been able to put in quite a bit of work on 8 new paintings, read a Joe Fig's book, and do some cooking for the ladies every few days. I am very much enjoying my time here in Berlin and I feel if I had a better grasp of the language I could easily be swayed to want to stay. I have been all over the city at all times of day and I have never felt unsafe. And on a side note, I have never seen so many flower shops in my life.
For those who might be interested in what i have been working on, here are a few images of the 8 paintings I have been working on over the course of the last two weeks. These are acrylic paintings on unprimed linen, stretched over cradled wood panels and secured with copper tacks. These are roughly 9" x 12" once stretched, but then again things are all metric here. Sort of taking it back to the old school. I have not worked in this manner in years. I typically do not use acrylics but the art supply store here happened to have a brand new line of acrylic paints by my favorite paint manufacturer, Old Holland. I had to give them a try. So far I am liking them. So for you process interested people here are some progression images:
Well, folks. That is in a nutshell the first two weeks here in Berlin. I will try and give you some further thoughts and updates about my residency here for those of you who might be interested in the coming weeks. I know we are getting ready for an open studio at the end of the month and I hope to have these paintings much further along by then and most likely three new small sculptures that I have in mind. (Was going to begin those today but after traveling all the way to the art supply store today, I came to realize that they are closed on Sundays, Ahhhhh!) So many places closed on Sundays here. First thing tomorrow then... Have a good Thanksgiving. Myself and the two other Americans here are planning our own big Thanksgiving Dinner for the rest of the residents and some invited guests this year. Any reason to bring everyone together for good food and friends. What more can you ask. Take care Indy!