Heimo Zobernig, Untitled (2017). All images courtesy Petzel Gallery.
Now through February 17, Petzel Gallery is currently hosting a pair of shows by Heimo Zobernig. Chess painting, on view at the gallery’s Chelsea location, recasts and re-creates the artist’s previous show at the MIT List Visual Arts Center in Cambridge, MA. Through an emphasis on the gallery’s architecture and spatial arrangements in each show, Zobernig facilitates a confrontation with the constructed, theatrical experience of visiting an art exhibition.
In chess painting, a show on view at the gallery’s 18th Street location, the artist makes use of discreet installations to draw visitor’s attention to the act of viewing. His large-scale, primed monochrome canvasses hang atop rolls of black photography paper. This black-and-white palette remains consistent throughout the exhibition, with repurposed mobile podiums adorned with cozy, black-and-white checkered faux-fur blankets. These platforms resemble daybeds, inviting visitors to relax and remain in the space of the gallery, furnishing the exhibition space with the promise of comfort and leisure.
Concurrently, more work by Zobernig will be exhibited at the gallery’s Upper East Side location through February 24. In nework, the artist exhibits nine new text paintings. Since 1986, Zobernig has used the sans serif typeface in his catalog and poster designs. In 1993, for a group exhibition, Zobernig subdivided the letters of the show’s title (REAL) into four fields using orange, brown, gray, black, and white in reference to Robert Indiana’s LOVE paintings. One year later, the REAL pictures were produced in the same colors. Eventually, Zobernig extended the color scale of the REAL images and began to incorporate the German word EGAL (“whatever”) into this work with lettering. In these, new works, the words EGAL and REAL overlap to fill the canvas and essentially interrupt and cancel each other out. The words are written into and on top of one another, thus their meaning disappears.
Zobernig’s work is situated within the impact of Modernism and emphasizes a questioning of the institutional mechanisms that contribute to the exhibition of artwork. Through an emphasis on the structure of the exhibition space, including the light, architecture, and structure of the gallery, Zobernig presents a holistic but subtly challenging experience of encountering the art work in the structure of the museum.
Zobernig was born in Austria in 1958. He has exhibited widely and in various international institutions, including solo shows in Cologne, Sweden, at the Reina Sofia in Madrid, the Kunsthaus Graz, and two solo exhibitions at the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon. His work was presented in the Austrian pavilion at the Venice Biennale. He lives and works in Vienna.
— A. Corrigan
Exhibition Page [Petzel Gallery]