Mas­ter Slave Sys­tem (after­glow)
Instal­la­tion view


Mas­ter Slave Sys­tem (after­glow)
Instal­la­tion view


13.02.02, 2013
Oil on can­vas
42 x 30 cm, 16.5 x 12 inches


14.01.02 Mas­ter Slave Sys­tem (after­glow), 2014
Oil on can­vas
97 x 69 cm, 38 x 27 inches


13.08.15, 2013
Oil on can­vas
35 x 25 cm, 14 x 10 inches


14.08.09, 2014
Oil on can­vas
42 x 42 cm, 16.5 x 16.5 inches


Mas­ter Slave Sys­tem (after­glow)
Instal­la­tion view


14.08.07 Mas­ter Slave Sys­tem (after­glow), 2014
Oil on can­vas
97 x 69 cm, 38 x 27 inches


14.08.02, 2014
Oil on can­vas
35 x 25 cm, 14 x 10 inches


Mas­ter Slave Sys­tem (after­glow)
Instal­la­tion view


14.07.03 Mas­ter Slave Sys­tem (after­glow), 2014
Oil on can­vas
97 x 69 cm, 38 x 27 inches


14.01.04 Mas­ter Slave Sys­tem (after­glow), 2014
Oil on can­vas
97 x 69 cm, 38 x 27 inches


Mas­ter Slave Sys­tem (after­glow)
Instal­la­tion view


08.09.05 Stuttgart Gestern, 2008
Oil on can­vas
42 x 42 cm, 16.5 x 16.5 inches


13.12.01, 2013
Oil on can­vas
42 x 30 cm, 16.5 x 12 inches


13.11.05, 2013
Oil on can­vas
35 x 25 cm, 14 x 10 inches


12.06.03, 2012
Oil on can­vas
42 x 42 cm, 16.5 x 16.5 inches


Mas­ter Slave Sys­tem (after­glow)
Instal­la­tion view


14.01.03 Mas­ter Slave Sys­tem (after­glow), 2014
Oil on can­vas
97 x 69 cm, 38 x 27 inches


09.12.09, 2009
Oil on can­vas
42 x 30 cm, 16.5 x 12 inches


14.08.01, 2014
Oil on can­vas
35 x 25 cm, 14 x 10 inches


Mas­ter Slave Sys­tem (after­glow)
Instal­la­tion view


13.10.01 Mas­ter Slave Sys­tem (after­glow), 2013
Oil on can­vas
42 x 42 cm, 16.5 x 16.5 inches


13.05.03 Mas­ter Slave Sys­tem (after­glow), 2013
Oil on can­vas
42 x 42 cm, 16.5 x 16.5 inches


14.07.01 Mas­ter Slave Sys­tem (after­glow), 2014
Oil on can­vas
97 x 69 cm, 38 x 27 inches


14.04.02, 2014
Oil on can­vas
42 x 30 cm, 16.5 x 12 inches


Mas­ter Slave Sys­tem (after­glow)
Instal­la­tion view


08.09.01, 2008
Oil on can­vas
42 x 30 cm, 16.5 x 12 inches


13.08.06, 2013
Oil on can­vas
35 x 25 cm, 14 x 10 inches


12.06.04, 2012
Oil on can­vas
42 x 42 cm, 16.5 x 16.5 inches


14.07.02 Mas­ter Slave Sys­tem (after­glow), 2014
Oil on can­vas
97 x 69 cm, 38 x 27 inches


14.04.01, 2014
Oil on can­vas
42 x 30 cm, 16.5 x 12 inches


Mas­ter Slave Sys­tem (after­glow)
Instal­la­tion view


13.08.11, 2013
Oil on can­vas
35 x 25 cm, 14 x 10 inches


08.07.09 Palet­ten­bild, 2008
Oil on can­vas
42 x 30 cm, 16.5 x 12 inches


08.07.08 Palet­ten­bild, 2008
Oil on can­vas
42 x 30 cm, 16.5 x 12 inches


13.10.03 Mas­ter Slave Sys­tem (after­glow), 2013
Oil on can­vas
42 x 42 cm, 16.5 x 16.5 inches


09.08.06, 2009
Oil on can­vas
42 x 42 cm, 16.5 x 16.5 inches

OCT 26 - DEC 7, 2014

KLAUS MERKEL:
MASTER SLAVE SYSTEM (afterglow)

Joe Shef­tel is pleased to present Mas­ter Slave Sys­tem (after­glow), Klaus Merkel’s first exhi­bi­tion with the gallery. An open­ing recep­tion will be held on Sun­day, Octo­ber 26, from 6-8pm. The exhi­bi­tion will be on view from Octo­ber 26 – Decem­ber 7, 2014.


In an inter­view from 1993, Ger­man painter Klaus Merkel dis­cusses Bar­nett Newman’s attack on paint­ing cat­a­logues as foun­da­tional to his pic­to­r­ial project:

“Bar­nett Newman’s attack has become famous. It claims the bat­tle is aimed at the cat­a­logue and, from this point of view, he surely means the copy-like char­ac­ter of repro­duc­tions. He feels the cat­a­logue as such works against paint­ing because the sub­lime, pure pic­ture we see and are meant to per­ceive is destroyed by its repro­duc­tion. But I would like to inten­sify the issue for the present debate. Paint­ing today not only has to defend itself against the cat­a­logue, but also has to inter­nal­ize the cat­a­logue in order to main­tain its hold on pic­tures and exhi­bi­tions as a con­se­quence of pic­tures. The cat­a­logue as such would then be some­thing like the final con­tainer for pic­tures.“1

Newman’s defense of the auratic was expressed with the vio­lent clar­ity that char­ac­ter­izes the polemics of his gen­er­a­tion in a 1970 issue of Art News to cel­e­brate the cen­ten­nial of the Met:

“I have always had a distaste—even a dis­dain— for repro­duc­tions and pho­tographs of art­works, even those of my own work. That is why I do not own a col­lec­tion of books of repro­duc­tions. Unless I have seen the orig­i­nal work so that a pho­to­graph can remind me of my own real expe­ri­ence, pho­tographs and slides have lit­tle inter­est for me. It seems to me that an art edu­ca­tion based on this mate­r­ial is noth­ing but a mirage.“2

There is in Merkel’s claim an explicit link to the func­tion of repro­duc­tion as part of the dis­tri­b­u­tion sys­tem of art­work with “exhi­bi­tions as a con­se­quence of pic­tures.” That res­onates with other debates of the late 60’s and early 70’s, notably Daniel Buren’s 1971 text “The Func­tion of the Stu­dio” in which con­ti­nu­ity between the phys­i­cal space of pro­duc­tion (the stu­dio) and of dis­tri­b­u­tion (the gallery and Museum) is denounced and dis­sected. Five years before, in 1966 Roberto Jacoby, Eduardo Costa and Raul Escari issued a man­i­festo called “An Art of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Media” con­firm­ing Newman’s belief:

“In mass civ­i­liza­tion, peo­ple are not in direct con­tact with cul­tural events; rather they are informed about them via the media. For exam­ple, a mass audi­ence does not see an exhi­bi­tion, attend a Hap­pen­ing or go to a soc­cer game, but it does see footage of the event on the news. (…) In the final analy­sis, it is of no inter­est to infor­ma­tion con­sumers if an exhi­bi­tion took place or not; all that mat­ters is the image of the artis­tic event con­structed by the media.“3

Of course this posi­tion, solid­i­fied at the shadow of McLuhan’s influ­ence and closely asso­ci­ated with the ori­gin and some of the most rad­i­cal appli­ca­tions of what would later be called Con­cep­tual Art does away with— or dema­te­ri­al­izes, to stick to proper period jar­gon— the art object. This is the offi­cial course of his­tory and his­toric­ity, the mag­is­te­r­ial lucid posi­tion of the avant-garde ful­fill­ing its crit­i­cal man­date.

Merkel chose the oppo­site, to stick to the prob­lem of paint­ing itself. There is in Merkel’s state­ment an assump­tion, an implied exten­sion of the prob­lem New­man finds with the archive, that posi­tions the cat­a­logue not only as the end of the sub­lime expe­ri­ence in the hands of mechan­i­cal repro­duc­tion, but also as a depos­i­tory of images arranged in series, grouped, cat­e­go­rized.

Merkel broad­ened his prac­tice between 1993 and 1995 with a series of per­for­mances that func­tioned as a cat­a­logue of his influ­ences and pre­oc­cu­pa­tions. “The Jack­son Pol­lock Bar — Life Play­back Per­for­mances (Theory-Installations)” was insti­gated in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Chris­t­ian Matthiessen. They stated “we aim to install the­o­ries. This method is as sim­ple as pow­er­ful: installing a sce­nario of aes­thetic dis­course. We re-construct lec­tures, con­fer­ences, panel dis­cus­sions, inter­views etc., by tran­scrib­ing the texts, trans­lat­ing, edit­ing and re-record them; then re-enacting them with actors on stage, lip-synching to the play­back– sound­track.” Numer­ous texts includ­ing Philip Gus­ton and Ad Rein­hart polemics were enacted. In recent email cor­re­spon­dence with the artist Merkel explained, “All these games around text, work, author­ship, rep­re­sen­ta­tion, and look were fin­ished with the making—but it was a beau­ti­ful sit­u­a­tion to split off all ele­ments. Of course this was much more effec­tive in per­for­mance, but after all I had to put this in paint­ing. It was not clear in those days, but my break came at the per­fect time, 1995, when I decided to put the ‘stage-questions’ into the sin­gle paint­ing as a place of instal­la­tion inter­ven­tions. ‘Paint­ing as dis­play’.”

Merkel works in sets, groups and series that inter­lock in an over­ar­ch­ing project, intro­duc­ing extended time in an open-ended project com­posed of sub-series. The basic struc­ture is dia­gram­matic. The com­po­si­tion of each indi­vid­ual paint­ing is a cat­a­logue of frames and ges­tures that refers to the cat­a­logue at large. Con­versely, the rela­tion­ship between for­mats and indi­vid­ual paint­ings is ana­log­i­cal to the inter­nal com­po­si­tion of each. This mode of pro­duc­tion is poten­tially infi­nite but by no means inde­ter­mi­nate. Ulti­mately, the terms “cat­a­logue” and “series” col­lapse into a per­pet­ual feed­back loop, cat­a­logu­ing itself with­out clo­sure. This stages a spe­cific resis­tance to highly con­vinc­ing endgame sce­nar­ios, to the man­date to pro­duce “the last paint­ing.” Merkel is his­tor­i­cally posi­tioned such that his project negates and makes unavail­able to him the Hegelian notion of the avant-garde, in which each for­mal prob­lem comes to a solu­tion, a prob­lem epit­o­mized by New­man and Ad Rein­hardt.

To sit­u­ate Merkel in his own con­text, that of post-war Ger­man paint­ing, two points of ref­er­ence must be men­tioned. One is Ger­hard Richter’s Atlas, which is a pho­to­graphic cat­a­logue and archive of his work and life and a visual ency­clo­pe­dia of what informs both. The other is Mar­tin Kip­pen­berger, born in 1953, the same year as Merkel and twenty-one years later than Richter. Kippenberger’s experiments—with social scenes and spaces of inter­sec­tion between his self­hood and com­merce, with gal­leries and restau­rants as an artis­tic form in itself, and with the bound­aries of author­ship, all of this some­how con­sol­i­dated and grounded around pro­duc­ing and sell­ing objects iden­ti­fied with clas­sic dis­ci­plines such as paint­ing, sculp­ture, draw­ing, and photography—resonate across var­i­ous “new” scenes around the globe peri­od­i­cally, includ­ing New York’s Lower East Side, where Merkel’s paint­ings are now being pre­sented. But Merkel’s cat­a­logue paint­ings (and painting-catalogues) are not exter­nal to them­selves. It doesn’t net-work like that. The mas­ter avant-garde sig­ni­fier “per­sona” does not apply.

Which other mas­ter sig­ni­fiers are evoked and addressed here? Who is enslaved? Rein­hardt, Newman’s prin­ci­pal inter­locu­tor, once referred to his black paint­ings as “the only paint­ings that can­not be mis­un­der­stood,” lead­ing to half a cen­tury of mis­un­der­stand­ings. Can Merkel be under­stood in his per­pet­ual refrac­tory re-mastering of his own images? The slave resists. What is this exhi­bi­tion resist­ing in the era of flip­pers, of dol­lars and paint­ings chang­ing hands at dig­i­tal insta­gramic speed? “Crap­strac­tion” and “Flip Art” are osten­si­bly process based and quickly exe­cuted abstract paint­ings. Process in Merkel is always care­fully framed within the struc­ture of the catalogue—drips and brush­strokes can only co-exist rel­a­tive to strict com­po­si­tional ele­ments. If any­thing, his visual project is a cri­tique of the uni­fied pic­ture, and of vision and the mech­a­nism of per­cep­tion itself, hark­ing back a debate about the pic­to­r­ial plane ini­ti­ated in ana­lyt­i­cal cubism that pre­cedes even the Newman/Reinhardt axis. The anachro­nism is the after­glow. The master-slave dialec­tic is full of his­toric­ity. The present hurts. Here, now, Merkel is top­ping from the bot­tom.

Text by Nico­las Guagnini. For press inquiries and images, please con­tact the gallery at mail@joesheftelgallery.com.


1. [“Klaus Merkel talks to Chris­t­ian Matthiessen,” Text For Two Speakers/ Two Actors, The Jackson-Pollock Bar, First Theory-Installation, 1993, Trans. Eliz­a­beth Schüth, Vec­tor Jour­nal, no. 1, 2008]

2. [Bar­nett New­man, “In Front of the Real Thing,” In Bar­nett New­man: Selected Writ­ings and Inter­views, edited by John P. O’Neill, 195–196, Berke­ley: Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Press, 1992. Orig­i­nally pub­lished in ART­news 68, no. 9 (Jan­u­ary 1970), p. 6]

3. [Eduardo Costa, Raúl Escari, and Roberto Jacoby, An Art of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Media (man­i­festo), orig­i­nally pub­lished as “Un arte de los medios de comu­ni­cación (man­i­fiesto),” in Hap­pen­ings (Buenos Aires: Edi­to­r­ial Jorge Álvarez), 1967]