Johannes Wohnseifer


Johannes Wohnseifer will be opening his 5th solo exhibition at Johann König, Berlin, with new sculptures, wall pieces and photographs. Connected with each other formally as well as in content, the works investigate culturally shaped representational forms and transformation processes.

The series “Canon” (2009), a photographic documentation of historical and contemporary coffee-table books about the African continent, creates the frame for the exhibition. Using the principles of object photography, the book-covers and pages work as a kind of contextual parenthesis for a sculpture series. Composed of seven shelf-like objects, each “shelf” is in turn made out of nine elements which correspond in form, color and material exactly to those used by Gerrit Rietveld for his “Berliner Stuhl”. The De Stijl designer developed the chair in 1923 for his exhibition in the actual capital and brought it into the market as a do-it-yourself construction set, as he did with many of his license-free designs. Some shelves vary in the original gray-black-white palette of Rietveld’s design. Others are lacquered in monochrome yellow, white or red – colors in the standardized RAL- palette, used frequently by Wohnseifer in his works.

Formally, Wohnseifer uses Rietveld’s asymmetry and plane composition, however questions the logic of functionality. The free combination of the pieces gives way to bizarre forms which negating any function. The artist plays here with the idea of object “recycling”, a widespread practice in non industrial countries, in which discarded materials with almost no more value are transformed into practical or also humorous products. In addition Wohnseifer titles his transformed objects with street names pertaining to the African quarter in Berlin “Wedding”: “Sambesistraße”, “Dualastraße”, “Ugandastraße” and “Tangastraße” stand for an uncritical appropriation of a very questionable part of German colonial history within the Berlin street scenery. The artist thus triggers notional links between Berlin and Africa and vice versa, which also come forth in the wall pieces from the series “Shutter Stutter“ (2009). The aluminum pictures are reminiscent of blinds used to protect buildings from strong sun rays. Wohnseifer adapts the blinds’ form but dissolves their materiality into abstract painting. Colorful, striped staccatos create moving images, whose effect also works, on a linguistic level, on the title “Shutter Stutter”.

The stylized face of a handless and thus “timeless“ clock, is present in another work. At the gallery’s entrance, placed above the counter, the “Schwarze Sonne” (2009) – a perforated aluminum plate lacquered in black and placed on top of a yellow monochrome painting – works as one of the endlessly ticking measures of time in the world’s cultural institutions. In this way Wohnseifer sets, right at the beginning, a comment on the possible reception of the exhibition, which questions the culturally defined system of values and their reading.

Johannes Wohnseifer (*1967, Cologne) lives and works in Cologne and Erfstadt. In 2008, the galleries Gisela Capitain, Cologne, Casey Kaplan, New York and Galería Helga de Alvear, Madrid held solo exhibitions of the artist. In 2007 Wohnseifer’s series “Kleenex Mathematics” was shown at the Presentation House Gallery in Vancouver. The exhibition “Vertrautes Terrain – Aktuelle Kunst in und über Deutschland” at the ZKM in Karlsruhe and the shows “The Porn Identity. Expeditionen in die Dunkelzone” at the Kunsthalle Vienna recently presented works of the artist. Currently, Wohnseifer’s works can be seen at „Compass in Hand: Selections from The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection“ in the New York MoMA.

Johann Koenig

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