Frankfurt am Main, June 20 – July 14, 2019, https://www.staedelmuseum.de
The graduates of the Staedelschule are very blessed to be from a school attached to a large museum, resulting in the wonderful opportunity to have their graduation show in the generous museum space, in immediate proximity to already canonized artists-masters. The “inherited” exhibition architecture of the just finished Titian exhibition, to be reused for their show.
The toned-down purple and greyish tones of the walls were made to match the renaissance master´s paintings. Seeing the space re-appropriated by fresh artistic positions was in itself a refreshing intervention. This situation probably also required a heightened sensibility regarding the installation from the exhibiting artists and curators.
As it could be expected from a graduates show, the works were very disparate. One could say the mixture was well balanced. There was no specific media or style focus, but overall I felt that a flexible and media-light approach was used. By that I mean it was not the medium itself that would be discussed, but rather an idea, a concept, was conveyed using a medium that was deemed the most appropriate to transmit the message, according to the artist.
I decided to highlight following works that stood out for me in different ways. K-K’s Windy Rooftop and the anal staircase would not really catch my attention if it wasn´t for the perfect spot it was installed, next to the staircase and highlighted by a spot of afternoon sunlight setting a counterpoint to the perspective in the painting. Once my attention was attracted to the painting, it was easy to get lost in its multiple layers of meaning. In fact I can´t say I can understand it, but this uncertainty is exactly the intrigue that it poses, like Giorgone´s The Tempest.
Niwat Manatpiyalert’s Dietrichstraße 6 contained a similar element of mystery: A set of posters of a painting from the Staedelmuseum (Max Beckmann, Frankfurter Hauptbahnhof, 1943) lying on the large wooden table straight below the opening connecting the floor below with the floor above. At the back side of the poster was an equally mysterious set of statements describing the daily interaction of someone (the fictional author) with a group of actors (they). Below the table was a simple dollhouse-style model of a room with empty shelves. Quite strange, and many people would probably just shake their head, but also intriguing.
Kristin Reiman´s opera The Drowse was another work that stood out. It was a sound work, with a minimal visual component, consisting only of subtitles on a black background, and the installation setup of a separate listening room with heavy curtains and bean bags to sit/lie in. The subject matter of the opera was the constant feeling of tiredness people face today, as described by Byung-Chul Han in his book The Burnout Society (Muedigkeitsgesellschaft, the society of fatigue, in German), although that source was not directly referenced. The musical style was close to dream pop, with mellow guitar sounds, lots of echo effects, and a slow singing-mumbling, which could nevertheless be well understood, appropriate to the given theme. It was a relaxing sound, yet meaningful too.
Overall it was a pleasant show. It had a certain lightness. Most of the artists showed they can formulate and present a position without dwelling too much on it. Each exhibit was attractive to a specific audience, and none of the works was too complex to take in. Here I might wish for a bit more complexity, which would, however, come with a feeling of difficulty and therefore displeasure for the statistical majority of the audience. Therefore I also interpret it positively as a “market awareness” of the graduates: Most of the works were perfectly art fair compatible, a good point for the artist´s future career.