Bernd Krauss at Galerie Giti Nourbakhsch, Berlin
Beautiful Decay Magazine
December 15, 2008
Just making art is rarely what qualifies one as an artist; often, to live life artistically is a far better measure. In this respect, there is a lot that can be said about the work of Bernd Krauß. In his most recent exhibition at Galerie Giti Nourbakhsch in Berlin, Krauß presents a number of his sprawling detritus-built installations alongside a litany of other objects - wall-hanging tapestries, impromptu collages, and other miscellaneous strewn bits and ends. These curious found and handmade items hybridize the aesthetic of domesticity with that contemporary art, making them ripe for discussing material use and artistic process.
Krauß’ “Seven Shops A Week” (2008) is the work in the exhibition that epitomizes the artist’s practice. Built from gridded metal displays, a ragged rug, white tiles, and other various shelving brackets, the piece looks like the leavings of a erratic flâneur - an unpredictable shopper’s wunderkammer. At the bottom, placed in the center, is a quorum of Africanesque tchotchkes. And, perched at the top is a plastic owl that doubles as a security camera. The bird of prey provides a live feed of the viewers and sculptures across the space to the gray television below. The video feed literalizes what is key to Krauß’ work, each piece’s interaction with its counterparts and the space as whole. Since, even with a list of the exhibition’s objects, looking at each piece as a finite entity seems faulty given Krauß’ process.
In “Bibliothek” (2007), five rounded and slotted slabs of wooden form an abstract and and barely functional magazine rack. While the structure comes up high enough to be a lectern, it’s only at the bottom that a lump of folded and tattered magazines are cradled. Set on a plinth of slim books and a fabric cushion, the apparatus is tethered to the wall by a series of chained objects. Including a straw circle, a few bracelets, and a wooden ladder likely owned by a parakeet, the makeshift chain cuts across the space and keeps the bibliothek from moving too far from two wooden bars that hold it.
In the glaring light of industrially produced monolithic art and a rising sea of work that revolves around narcissistic folklore, seeing a practice whose core is a thread woven through daily life is welcome retreat. However, does the work extend beyond being art showcasing Krauß’ quirky lifestyle? If so, Krauß regularly finds himself with his back against this wall. Since the discourse of reuniting art with life is irrelevant to such an integrated practice, the work presents itself on the aesthetic plane alone. Most works exceed an expectation for the mundane, they show the artist’s acute, albeit sometimes tawdry aesthetic sensibility and have the finesse that could only come from Krauß being such a clever collagist and inventive sculptor. What redeems each work from being labelled as just idiosyncratic tinkering, is that they have heart. With a grimacing sentimentality, Krauß is able to express a sense of joy and pleasure in creating art. Not beholden to making concrete meaning or crafting critical messages, the works are the ends of an intuitive and ultimately self-made styles and forms. They demonstrate how Krauß continues to not just make art, but live artistically.