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Artists Anonymous: War

Goff + Rosenthal
537 West 23rd Street, 212-675-0461
May 6 - June 3, 2006
Reception: Saturday, May 6, 6 - 8 PM
Web Site

This exhibition, comprised of painting, photographic-based work, sculpture, video and installation will completely transform the gallery into a labyrinth centered around an “apocalyptic warrior” called War. This character is the first in an ongoing series of Apocalyptic Warrior installations by Artists Anonymous. Others include: Hunger, Pollution, Drugs, AIDS, Overpopulation and the Angel of Death. Upcoming installations of Apocalyptic Warriors will take place in London, Berlin and Miami.

WAR is centered around a large painting and its inverse-colored photographic pendant-the “afterimage” in the lingo of the artists. The figure is an axe-wielding punk set against a backdrop of multicolored swastikas. At first glance it is an easy painting to appreciate-“attractive” in its size, colors, edgy provocation and execution. Yet the bloody subject and swastika imagery-difficult to see at first-make it problematic, even taboo. It is vague enough to attract multiple meanings—from the historical (Nazi Germany) to the pop-cultural (Mad Max, Blade Runner, savage video games, etc.). It is meant to evoke a current state of affairs in politics, in the world and in the art world, but for the artists, it is also deeply personal. Says Nils of Artists Anonymous: This is about our life, about our group, about Berlin and how we live and work and interact.

Artists Anonymous’ work occupies deliberately uncomfortable spaces: between the myth of solitary, visionary artists and a pseudo-socialist fantasy of artists as anonymous collaborators, between the worldly and the intensely tribal, between that which is commercial and an artistic production that is unsalable. They attempt to have it both ways: With their references to Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke and even the Leipzig School, for example, they are always both mocking and acknowledging, borrowing from and criticizing.

Part of War will consist of a series of paintings and photographs of empty corridors.These corridors might be a Kafkaesque locus of Pentagon trouble-making in the world or they might be part of a hospital where one of their members took a psychiatric detour. Whatever the interpretation, the work is imbued with anxiety and possibility. The connections made between interpretations and the multiplicity of readings are, in the end, the correct interpretation.

The process of making negative photographic prints of paintings and making video work with inverted colors embodies Artists Anonymous refusal to occupy anything other than a perfect limbo. And yet their refusal to take up a single position is not an amoral one; rather it is a serious commentary of the difficulties of taking any sides and on the necessity of seeing things from multiple angles and opposite perspectives.
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