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Johannes Wohnseifer, Emptiness & Violence II

Casey Kaplan Gallery
525 West 21st Street, 212-645-7335
January 10 - February 9, 2008
Reception: Thursday, January 10, 6 - 8 PM
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Casey Kaplan is pleased to announce the third solo exhibition in New York of Cologne-based artist Johannes Wohnseifer. Keeping with his unique practice, Wohnseifer will exhibit new paintings, sculptures and multi-media works that combine and juxtapose a wealth of references in the interest of exploring the aesthetics of politics, histories, and concepts of time.

Emptiness & Violence II is a sequel to Wohnseifer’s 2003 show Leere und Gewalt (1978-2003) at the Sprengel Museum Hanover, Germany. There, his installation made connections between specific histories surrounding the institution and the city of Hanover with references to the 1978 Lufthansa Cargo heist at JFK airport and Martin Scorcese’s 1990 film Goodfellas. Each element on view addressed the notion of time and relationships of events to one another, past, present, or future; a theme that carries into Wohnseifer’s new body of work.

The new exhibition begins with the eponymous work “Emptiness and Violence,” a series of 13 found landscape paintings made in Germany between the years 1933 and 1945. Each banal painting was made by an amateur and/or unknown artist during that time. Installed chronologically under red-filtering Plexiglas, the works form a scenic panorama of Nazi Germany.

Also on view, twelve identical black and white silk screens that depict an image appropriated from a psychology textbook published in the former German Democratic Republic. Each piece represents one calendar month, indicated by multiple prismatic forms. The same shape appears in the aluminum-based work Poster Painting, where the secret burial chamber of the Cheops Pyramid hints at the structure of this exhibition, and its deceptive paths.

The sense of timelessness in these works is contrasted with a convergence of histories in a communicative bar sculpture made from carbon and zebra wood that is illuminated by three hanging lamps symbolizing the Ethiopian flag colors: red, gold and green. Informing this piece are works inspired by specific moments such as the 1930 Time magazine cover featuring Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie as “The King of Kings;” German artist Blinky Palermo’s series of aluminum-based paintings entitled To the people of New York City, 1976-77; current board members at The Museum of Modern Art, New York and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and the 1963 photograph of Marcel Duchamp playing chess at the Pasadena Art Museum with the nude model Eve Babitz.

By combining worlds of fact and fiction, precise references and oblique allusions, Wohnseifer highlights the contextual significance inherent in visual perception to create an installation where ideas and symbols quickly shift meaning and new relationships are formed.
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