press release

through August 15, 2020


The cool smile of an icon whose frontal portrait does not seem tangible. The seductive gaze of a significant pair of eyes, whose recognizability can undoubtedly be located in the pop culture and cultural history of the 20th and 21st centuries. The adult face of a woman in half profile as a representative of pride and strength. Opposite it, half the reflection of her face full of grace and dignity. And the wistful facial expression of a distant heroine, who is synonymous with a new form of female self-confidence as a symbol of a contemporary, surreal beauty. Johannes Wohnseifer’s pictures of the American musical star Beyoncé, shown on five different RAL wall paints, reflect all these facets, and at the same time illustrate the construct of a public identity, the true nature of which cannot be grasped behind the multilayered masks of a figure created over decades.

A truly hyperrealistic picture that only shows the perceptibility of its iconic subject in fragments—as in the stuttering of the significant exhibition title B-B-Bilder. Only visible in their entirety from a distance through the perforation of the aluminum grids, the five equally sized prints on PVC banners shown in Johannes Wohnseifer’s second solo exhibition at Galerie Linn Lühn obscure the direct view of her face from close up. Mysterious and distant, like the image of a modern sphinx, her physical features recede and hide behind the mask of the painted metal elements, like a coarsening filter whose inverted picture puzzle is diametrically related to the tendencies of visual smoothing and image refinement on social media.

As photographs that both name and question the subject of the media representation of a mainstream figure that shifts between cliché, symbol, and icon by taking it from the star’s Instagram profile, Wohnseifer’s works return to the subject of an earlier series of Beyoncé Paintings that he began between 2007 and 2008. Based on professional images for promotional purposes, in which the shaping of a star’s image represented and received by the media is determined primarily by external influences, Wohnseifer’s new works now examine the sustainability and visual significance of their iconic image. A figure whose image now moves between emancipated self-representation, feminist empowerment, and political emancipation as well as the controlled staging of its own (brand) identity through its omnipresence in social media. An image that we never look at in its entirety, despite its media oversaturation and constantly growing relevance, and that remains a surface. That eludes us, despite the strategy of appropriation chosen by Wohnseifer, even though we seem to be closer to it than ever through the mediation and intimate reach of media such as Instagram.

Bearing the visual aura of a partly complementary contrast system of the color spectrum of historical Porsche paints, Johannes Wohnseifer’s manipulations between selfie and artistic portrait also form the connection of a monochrome abstract support with a figurative element. A template—see-through due to its perforation—on whose conceptual level original and cliché meet in the same way as icon and symbol. As artistic means, they are visual insignia represented by colors that outwardly describe the perception of a luxurious object as well as the formal means of industrial painting. The latter takes on an equal compositional role in Wohnseifer’s works across from the photographs, while situating its production process on the perforated plates in an asrea of the surface whose structures can also be found mirrored in the architecture of media representation. Auratic and unapproachable like the images on which they are based, they too become an independent picture, behind whose glowing grid patterns the silhouette of an icon always encodes itself anew.

Philipp Fernandes do Brito