Almine Rech Gallery, Brussels

ALMINE RECH GALLERY | 20 Rue de L’Abbaye Abdijstraat
B-1050 Brussels

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The exhibition is installed in a building scheduled for demolition. For "White Earth," Anselm Reyle has an unconventional setting at his disposal and heightened it to suit his purpose. He found the location - an old industrial building with parking garage in Brussels - in a dilapidated state, and has for the most part left it unaltered. The sole renovation was the construction of a sheetrock wall which has been crudely plastered and left unpainted, and which serves as a surface for presenting the artworks. The floor as well, found strewn with industrial refuse, has been left as is by Reyle, and even to some extent supplemented by additional "add-ons" and integrated into a larger configuration including the lighting installation and the hanging of large-format collage paintings. Everything is part of an all-encompassing scenarization, as Reyle transforms a modern ruin into an accessible stage: neither a sterile white cube, nor simply a real room. Instead, it is a radicalized and in the final analysis highly artificial hybrid form within which Reyle arranges the purposeful collision of his art with refuse and discarded materials. He has generated collisions which go beyond the individual work, on the one hand intensifying objects normally treated as members of an ensemble of exhibits (paintings, sculptures, installations), on the other calling into question the status of the autonomous work. Reyle's scenarization, then, intensifies the works through the dissolution of boundaries and enmeshes them in multifarious atmospheric correspondences with the setting as a whole. Resulting from this strategy of reciprocal supercharging is something found earlier only at the level of Reyle's individual works: in his "Stripes Paintings", gestural paintings, and neon sculptures, for example, it was less a question of traditional composition than of creating a chromatic total space, thereby calling into question conventional conceptions of composition. Reyle takes up traditional stylistic formulae used an abstract painting like found objects, exaggerating them by simultaneously emptying them out and loading them with effects and presenting them anew as modulated intensities. When he invokes Tachism or Color Field Painting, when he restages "informel" sculpture, works with "objets trouvés" or combines painting with shards, stones, and electronic scrap in collage-style works, Anselm Reyle is adapting emphatic gestures of once advanced pictorial idioms, emptying them of significance while simultaneously heightening their effectivity as surfaces and effects. "I'm interested in something that has the quality of being a cliché," says Reyle. "I attempt to grasp the crux and to reinscribe it so that it really gets moving again." The exhibition "White Earth" too is a highly constructed pictorial space - an installative arrangement of works, pictorial formulae, and found objects which has been concentrated conceptually and atmospherically into a complex "total chromaticity." Of central importance - and the source of the exhibition's title - is a series of new, large-format collage paintings produced by Reyle on the basis of white textured paint impasto ("White Earth"). He has arranged the paintings in paler tonalities (the only ones that are exposed to natural light) in the main gallery together with a pair of sculptures. Reyle painted these panels - which measure ca 250 x 200 cm - with a lush, coarse impasto paint, adding gestures with spatula and scraper before applying a variety of semitransparent specialty coatings, for instance an iridescent, high-gloss mother-of-pearl automobile paint. In other "White Earth" paintings, Reyle has applied discarded materials such as electronic scrap, expanding one painting to become pictorial relief, or applying mirrored shards to another and supplying it with a mirrored frame. He works consistently with standardized pictorial forms, but avoids seriality in favor of free arrangement and individualized variation. Reyle, for example, flanks the white works with a pale striped picture in a polished steel frame, and places a large all-over foil picture in a neon yellow Plexiglas protective case at the head of the room as a quasi-sacred exaggeration. Also juxtaposed is a modernist-style mirrored sculpture - along with a typical Reyle sculpture, generated by transposing a small African tourist-trade sculpture onto a large scale. In this case, the work is coated with silver metallic paint and prism effects. As a result, the space possesses a palpably coherent and yet unanalysable mixture of sublimity, special effects, and pseudo glam. In the other rooms, Anselm Reyle has formulated this strategy by means of diverse foci and coloristic accents. In one of the lower rooms, for example, configurations of scattered technological refuse are confronted with poured neon colors and a blacklight installation. Here, it becomes difficult to distinguish which material has been absorbed into the work and which was formerly refuse – Reyle's minimally invasive intervention combines preexisting materials into an extremely effective "informel" structure, now translated into spatial terms. With Reyle, finally, such applications of light always refer back to painting. It is also evident in his installation of square elements intended for cladding façades. Reyle found these constructive elements - of East German pedigree and highly reminiscent of Op Art - on a building by chance, and had them reproduced on a larger scale by a model builder before treating them with an artificial rust coating. In their deliberately fragmentary mounting, they convey a vague compositional impression as well as that of dilapidated wall cladding. The reverses of these elements are bathed in an LED illumination in rapidly changing colors, one designed to juxtapose the appeal of the rust coating with a chromatic mixture, typical of Reyle, composed of lilac and yellow or green and orange tones. In the exhibition "White Earth," Reyle has used his art to further exacerbate conventional boundaries of taste. If earlier, he used neon colors, for example, "like a cranked up electric guitar," he now deploys increasingly refined combinations of effects, joining textural impasto with crackle finish, massive steel frames, refuse, airbrushing, and LED lighting. "To come to terms with excess is part of my work," says Anselm Reyle." It's a tightrope act that can really cause pain." With the all-encompassing total installation that is "White Earth," this strategy has borne fruit in an astonishing and striking manner.

Jens Asthoff

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Anselm Reyle
WHITE EARTH