Badischer Kunstverein

Michael Dreyer

Gemeinschaftsarbeiten / Society Pieces

19 May - 20 Aug 2017

© Michael Dreyer
Egg peace, detail, 2017
Gemeinschaftsarbeiten / Society Pieces
19 May - 20 August 2017

Curated by Anja Casser

Badischer Kunstverein is delighted to present the Stuttgart–based artist Michael Dreyer in the most comprehensive solo exhibition to date. The exhibition Gemeinschatsarbeiten / Society Pieces features earlier works alongside a number of new ones created especially for the Kunstverein. Michael Dreyer works in such diverse media as small-scale sculpture, painting, collage, performance, and film. With Dreyer, self-referentiality constitutes both form and content; equally central are the principles of appropriation and amplification. His art is highly conceptual, but at the same time plays with a desire for emotional and aesthetic “appeal.”

The exhibition at the Kunstverein involves a (formal) confrontation with various languages and aesthetics of political and so-called ‚committed’ art. According to Dreyer, political art can be characterized as a “demonstrational” speech act, one that was still characterized in the 19th and 20th centuries by conviction, still communicated truths, exposed discourses of power, and shaped values. The approximately 50 new works in this exhibition are preoccupied with a dialectic of social utopia and defective reality. Drawings alternate with collages and small-scale sculptures. At the center are to some extent large-format and multicolored ink drawings that form a series of monumental book titles. They represent a subcanon of literature and theory devoted to themes such as community and society, relief and self-help, production and productivity, automation and destruction. This objective and putatively simple pictorial language asserts itself in relation to other motifs as well, with gear wheels, eggs, and chicks referring allegorically to a utopia of “edenic animal coexistence” and by extension to a form of animal-machine peace. This motif brings Dreyer quite consciously in proximity to kitsch and clichés, but at the same time allows him to negotiate the possibility of realizing ideas of harmony and crisis pictorially.

A social utopia on the threshold leading from the 19th to the 20th centuries was the “aid” addressed in the exhibition in its various facets. Here, the child as constitutively “in need of aid” is the subject of numerous works, for example the sculptures Child Destroying a Music Box (2016, referencing a novel by Peter Weiss), Child Pointing With a Crutch (2016, referencing a film by R.W. Fassbinder) and Frères et soeurs, s’imitant mutuellement (2017). In the new collages, finally, the subject becomes the theme. Hereby Dreyer has established that the subjective and autobiographical moment contained in the works of various authors can be elucidated quite concretely through the performative gesture of their self-staging. At the same time, collage and montage are interrogated as traditional media of critique in modernism.

Against the background of the current crisis of humanity, democracy, and participation, Michael Dreyer addresses the question of how community can be negotiated in a utopian way, how individuals can support one another within a community, and what role ought to be attributed to political art in this context. In his reflections on the vocabularies, iconographies, and references of “committed art” he draws upon the various forms of their actual miscarriage. The crisis of political art can be traced to the moment when the field places itself at the service of high culture.

Michael Dreyer, *1953 in Coburg, lives and works in Stuttgart.
Dreyer is a professor at the Merz Akademie, Hochschule für Gestaltung, Kunst und Medien (Merz Academy for Design, Art, And Media)