One of the best things about subletting other people’s studios is being surrounded by unexpected things–books, postcards, odd materials and so forth. I recently moved into a new place in Williamsburg, near the Graham Avenue stop on the L train, and happened upon a trove of back issues of ArtForum. I borrowed one for subway reading and became absorbed in a series of 2005 articles about Michael Krebber, a German painter who was Martin Kippenberger’s friend and studio assistant and is now a professor at the Städelschule, in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
A conceptual painter who often doesn’t paint, readers may recall that Krebber had a solo show at Greene Naftali in 2011 in which he made all the work over the course of several weeks before the show in a temporary space near the gallery. Essentially, continuing his love/hate relationship with painting and the art market, he transcribed vitriolic blog commentary about contemporary art exhibitions onto large, fairly open canvases.
|Michael Krebber, from Greene Naftali, 2011.|
Curious to see what Krebber has been up to lately, I looked him up and learned that he presented two shows this year: an eponymous solo at Maureen Paley in London (installation view at top), and “Les escargots ridiculisés,” a year-long survey at CAPC Musée d’art Contemporain de Bordeaux.
Here are images from the Maureen Paley show and a transcript of an interview conducted in conjunction with the CAPC survey. Krebber talks enigmatically about painting, installing his work, and doubt:
Who are these Snails?
will see one on the cover of the catalogue raisonné and some more in
the book. I painted some paintings with a similar snail on each one of
Who makes a fool of them?
The ridiculized snails is the title for the entire exhibition. I borrowed The ridiculized snails from
the performance group Da Group. In my interpretation of the title, the
snails, i.e. all my works on view in the exhibition and illustrated in
the catalogue, are in fact already ridiculized. Nobody makes a fool of
The show at the CAPC is an exhibition of which nature?
Alexis Vaillant, the curator of the exhibition, says it is a survey of my work. It may be a kind of a retrospective but I prefer the term survey. And no new works were made for this exhibition, so it really is a survey.
How was the selection made?
Alexis worked through
my archive and made proposals for the selection, which, in most cases, I
accepted. This selection also gave the catalogue its form.
How many artworks are showed in the exhibition?
A hundred and fifty two
How are the paintings juxtaposed?
different clues for installing (and for juxtaposing) because I think it
is not possible to find a single one that works for such a huge and
non-homogeneous exhibition. I built it up from different sides or
angles. The construction is not very stable, but is hopefully well
balanced in the end
Is there a chronology in the exhibition?
There is a kind of chronology in the catalogue, though not consequently drawn through.
Once you said of your works “I can be rented”; what do you mean by that?
‘I can be rented’ is a title of a work of mine, also a borrowed title. I found it on a Jack Smith leaflet alongside the words “oily actor who acts in anything”.
Do you teach?
Yes, I’ve been teaching a painting class at the Frankfurt’s Städelschule since 2002.
Would you confirm that ‘painting’ is used / explored by you
as a filter? Might that question ask about a possible program of
‘painting’? Its application?
In that case: painting, as
well as any other activity, runs as an application that regularly and
constantly changes, from for one person communicating with himself, to 2
people or more. Like society, here the programs runs wild, everyone
might be in a different program, either actively or passively, and this
is why I called this exhibition The ridiculized snails.
Is “painting” still seen as a controversial activity?
Smith said that buying and possessing art was wrong, it was against the
idea of art. Here lies the contradiction. But painting is also qualified
as an image of the enemy, it therefore can easily seem to be used as a
controversial activity. This became kind of common knowledge for the
‘knowing ones’ and I think I benefit a bit from that. And it is still an
open game. Please read my text “Puberty in Painting“.
Do you have to ‘defend’ artistically the use of painting as a medium?
I think “Puberty in Painting“ says it all and I do not want to defend or preserve it.
Instead of ‘defending’, I would prefer to throw in the idea of: identification with the aggressor.
Is painting an idea? A concept? A category?
There is the issue of painting’s production against the issue of the institution of painting.
What type of information does your painting contain?
on who will look at it. Mixed in with all kinds of personal issues of
mine. This could also become a game, if somebody wanted to play.
Anecdotes, references, social networks have become an integrated visible part in your work. Does it belong to the ‘painting’?
I heard somebody using the term ‘expanded painting’. In his text “Painting beside itself“,
David Joselit quotes Martin Kippenberger who said in an interview about
a painting, that not only the painting was important, but everything
around it too, the people that the painter talked to, his whole network
and also the noodles that he ate.
Would you say you operated with a concept of “painting” that
functions in an active manner? An ‘active’ manner that can be used as a
medium for criticizing / discussing both conceptual and institutional
strategies through the act of painting?
I think lots of
things are always possible here. But one is always moving, in a moving
set and one should try to watch the two move together.
Is doubt, as a potential qualifier for painting, expressed repeatedly in an encounter with your work?
I have heard this a lot and it was very touching when I heard it the
first time. But turning doubt into a profession and being a professional
doubter, would be really ridiculous. Maybe I should dare to take that
step, but I think I cannot.
|Michael Krebber, 2013.|
Is your painting doubtful? i.e. Self reflexivity,
flexibility, hesitant: ways to produce criticality beyond recognizable
These are terms that are used a lot these days,
but again it would be a funny game, to watch people becoming
professional doubters, hesitators, etc.
I once copied a sentence from
a magazine. It quoted Birgit Pelzer, who said that Marcel Broodthaers
knew about the possibility that forgery too can be forged. I like this
sentence so much because it takes the issue to another level.
Looking on 25 years of production, would you ‘sum up’ your
œuvre as a succession of digressions, evasive actions with a lack of
focus and stability? Or is this a strategy?
I like all of these terms and would like to take all of them into account.
|Michael Krebber, 2013.|
Your painting is woven into an intricate system of external
references that are not always apparent. How can one ‘see’ them then?
And what thing do they point to, beyond the frame of the picture?
about the possibility that forgery too can be forged, I would try not
to understand a reference that is not immediately apparent, but of
course everybody tries to make a joke a bit more complicated from time
to time, and sometimes it works out, sometimes not, then one should try
to come down elegantly and so on. This is fun.
How do your works go beyond / are a world away from Stella’s statement “what you see is what you get”?
I try to have different notions on offer to be able to choose, for example, the game in which I play.
Is your painting a game then?
One could use it as a game or for whatever purpose, or for no purpose at all, in case this exists.
And what about the surfboards?
I really like
them from all point of views, so I try to consider them in terms of
painting. I cannot say anything about them, they are sculptures or
objects. I enjoy the fact that you destroy something and it is still so
beautiful, and I think a surfboard is as beautiful as the idea of
surfing to me. I used windsurf boards because they were easier to get. I
had the idea of quoting a Donald Judd wall sculpture by installing the
cut surfboard pieces on a wall, but a friend told me it was not about
Judd, but more about Ashley Bickerton.
Does the way you use painting demonstrate a series of possibilities of how one can engage in painterly activity?
this exhibition, one can see the way I use painting and one can see
that I did not refuse to become implicated in this exhibition, by doing a
One does not have to take a look at this, but one could
take a deeper look at any person acting in whatsoever and it will offer
series of possibilities. This is common sense but from there I would
like to answer your question with yes.
Do you agree with the idea that the exhibition The ridiculized snails works as the presentation of the aura your body of works is inhabited by?
Sure, I have to.
Is this survey kind of a recontextualisation of the works?
Yes, I hope so.
Some people say: “Who is this new young artist?” When were you born?
I am 58 years old and I was born in 1954.
Where do you live?
I live in Cologne and Frankfurt too.
The impossibility of painting and the equally persistent impossibility of not painting (2009)
Everybody hearts painting, 4eva (2008)
Martin Kippenberger: champion for insincerity (2007)
Two Coats of Paint is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution – Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. For permission to use content beyond the scope of this license, permission is required.