This show took place in Berlin, July 2005, in the Galerie Meerrettich, Glaspavillon an der Volksbühne . Galerıe Meerrettıch was run by Josef Strau. It was not a commercial gallery, but an art space located in the former box office of the Volksbühne. Nevertheless the works on display could be sold as well. The show was based on one of the most cherished paintings in the history of art : The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli, recreated from memory, combined with smoking Chianti bottles and stacks of plates. Tourism ahoi !
Dotticelli, need I say, is a deliberate misspelling, implying dottiness.
The two sacramental torches left and right of the entrance to the temple of Venus, consisting of lambri drums, hiding smoke machines, stacks of melamine plates and Chianti bottles sculpted from wood all connected with a wind canal directing the smoke out into the air. These two torches, always formed a part of the entire work and therefore were never named individually.
" The Adventures of Venus - Her marvellous experience at the hands of Italians , after Sandro Dotticelli " , ınstallation, oil on canvas, lacquered wood, melamine plates, and fog machine, variable size, 2005, private collection
" Adventures of Venus ", preporatory materials, 2005 collage, paint on paper, green wood frame, 109 x 100 cm
Invitation card for "Figures in a Carpet", 2002
The following text is a review of the Figures in a Carpet show by Astrid Wege, published in Artforum İnternational, November 2002
In his story “ The Figure in the Carpet “ ( 1896 ) Henry James depicts a young critic who, in search of the hidden key to a work by a writer he admires, not only fails to find it, but also loses all joy in the works’s detail. In titling his exhibition “ Figures in a Carpet “, Lukas Duwenhögger seemed to be handing viewers ( critics included ) the first thread of the web of references he had spun here. Or would it be more accurate to say he dangled it just out of reach ? Ultimately, the title can be taken as ironic, but also as an earnest warning against the desire to reduce everything to an underlying pattern, including the one that nearly every critic to encounter Duwenhögger’s paintings and installations has observed : They contain a wealth of semantic resonances that presuppose specific knowledge of homosexual codes, but that decoding is continually deferred.
This elliptical structure found an analogy in Duwenhögger’s disposal of the gallery space. Three pairs of columns tiled with light green Karadeniz mosaic stones from Turkey sketched out an imaginary space within the room. More was involved than just yoking two different geographic and cultural spaces ( Turkish decor with the tiled building facades characteristic of Cologne ) in And Again Imitation-Pillars ( all works 2002 ), as this architectural intervention was titled ; interior and exterior space were inverted as well. Thus an ever-green wreath, traditionally used in Germany in the ceremony for the completion of the roof of a new house ( Richtkranz ), hung freely over the gallery floor. This sculptural motif ( The Blessing of Their Gentleness ) partly obscured Balthazar, a horizontal oval painting portraying a man lying at the edge of a swimming pool; in the foreground a grizzled dandelion releases its seeds to the wind. The man’s gaze, seemingly fixed on the viewer, was countered in the next room by another oval picture, this time in a vertical format, called Caspar, showing a dark-haired barkeeper leaning against a door frame with an ice-cream cone in one hand. In the third picture of the ensemble , Melchior, a suave but simply dressed man lights a cigarette. The only one of these figures to avert his gaze from the viewer, he stands beneath a burning street lamp whose design creates a peculiar contrast with the Mediterranean cityscape in the background – a contrast underscored by the snowflakes circling the lantern, which lend the scene its unreal, almost fairy tale – like feeling.
Through the pictures’ titles and by displaying T.S Eliot’s poem “ Journey of the Magi “ in the gallery, Duwenhögger indicates that the three figures are holy men of sorts, perhaps to be referred in turn to the figures depicted in a small painting in the entryway : Sunday Afternoon shows three workers in a cozily decorated construction trailer whose window opens onto a view of an austere modern building. Perhaps these men are supposed to be guest – workers who, just like Balthazar , Caspar, and Melchior – from the East, as we know – have traveled to a strange land. Sunday Afternoon compresses, as if in a mirror several themes touched on elsewhere in the exhibiton : the interpenetration of the foreign and the familiar, the alternation between journeying and rest, the juxtaposition of ornament and modern architecture – pairs of seeming opposites that Duwenhögger constantly morphs together into their alleged counterpart, thereby causing many beautiful figures in the carpet to appear.
‘ A cold coming we had of it,
For a journey, and such a long journey :
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes,the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices :
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation,
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky.
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place ; it was (you may say) satisfactory
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This : were we led all that way for
Birth or Death ? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different ; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.’
Turkish emigrants on their way to Germany undergoing a medical examination, Sirkeci İstanbul (1970). From the book "A Seventh Man" by John Berger, photo by Jean Mohr
İnstallation shots of " Figures in a Carpet ", Galerie Daniel Buchholz , Köln, 2002
" Caspar ", oil on canvas mounted on wood, 242 x 102 cm, 2002, private collection
" Melchior ", oil on canvas mounted
" Balthazar ", oil on canvas mounted on wood, 102 x 242 cm, private collection
I witnessed a man kissing the right foot of Balthazar at the opening of " Prinzenbad "
" The Hustler ", oil on canvas, 45 x 30 cm, 1986, private collection
" The Barber ", oil on canvas, 1997, 45 x 29 cm, private collection
"Giorgio", oil on canvas, 1999, 45 x29 cm, private collection, framed by the collector
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