Nusser & Baumgart

Spomenko Skrbic

01 Dec 2010 - 21 Jan 2011

© Spomenko Skrbic
Installation view
Im Lot
01.12.2010 until 21.01.2011

After over forty years of continuous self-analysis, one would think that artists had exhaustively examined the medium of painting and that no questions would remain open. The work of Spomenko Škrbić – born in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1969 and a graduate of Munich’s Academy of Fine Arts – proves that this is not the case. Borrowing from media-specific concepts of the artwork, such as those of Frank Stella, Robert Ryman, Blinky Palermo, and Imi Knoebel, Škrbić ‘puts the screws on’ painting. Nusser & Baumgart are pleased to present the results of this analytical investigation in the artist’s second large-scale solo exhibition at the gallery.

In the works from 1999 to 2009, Škrbić was occupied with the tension to be achieved through the calculated placement of more or less thickly painted stripes on various supports made of diverse materials. In these works, the artist found convincing and unexpected answers to the often-posed question about the figure-ground relationship in painterly composition. The intensive study of this dynamic relationship – so particularly effective in abstract painting – demonstrates that Škrbić is constantly pursuing and contemplating a specific objective. This impression is confirmed by the logical development of his oeuvre in the exhibition’s most recent works. The earlier works’ painted stripes and columns introduced a graphic element into the painterly process. They now take on a different form of corporeality: Škrbić employs pieces of wood as three-dimensional compositional elements placed on the support – generally paper, sheets of MDF, and sections of canvas attached directly to the wall without a stretcher or frame. The conventional act of painting is limited to adding a flat coat over these spartan materials, which were taken from the accumulations of working and waste material in his studio. These works offer an extremely reductive and rigorous interpretation of the ‘combine paintings’ developed by Robert Rauschenberg in the 1950s. Škrbić limits his role in these assemblages to the integration of the wooden elements, whose specific materiality is both emphasised and perverted through a coat of gold or silver paint: the 'base' material receives an oddly ambiguous value through its ‘noble’ coat of paint. The artist further heightens this incongruity by allowing hardware stores’ stickers and other traces of use to remain on his materials and then granting them a decisive role in the overall effect of the compositions. The work raises questions related to an aesthetics of the material and directs our attention to the constructive process, which always remains intelligible. For the artist, this process consists primarily in the most free and spontaneous experimentation that is possible within the limits set by the fixed parameters. In the case of the new works, the fragments of wood may be understood as the fundamental constant behind the various declensions.

The exhibited pieces range from the works on paper in the rear room of the gallery and the compositions fixed on a flat support to the complete ‘exit from the picture-plane’ realised by Škrbić in the relief-like objects and the sculptures. The works made up of joined pieces of wood were not only freed from any element of framing, but also from the support of the easel painting’s background. The objects combine sculptural and painterly elements through the dynamic superimposition of the wood and the continuous coat of paint. In interaction with the effect of their materiality, which has already been described, these elements explain the aesthetic effectiveness of the works, which, at first, glance seem so irritatingly simple. Škrbić successfully highlights the aesthetic quality of the materials used, and – through the conflation of painting, drawing, and sculpture – he is able to enquire into these media and the conditions of their existence.

This is equally true of the artists' free-standing sculptures. The work Im Lot (‘Upright’; 2009) appears simplistic, but, at the same time, leads the viewer to suppose that it was no easy task to balance and secure the wooden laths. In the moment when the work literally unfolds – after having been collapsed for transport – it reveals what the three-dimensionality primarily attributed to the medium of sculpture means: to occupy space, to structure space, to make space perceptible.
It becomes clear that the work of Škrbić is self-referential.

Text: Anne Vieth

Tags: Imi Knoebel, Blinky Palermo, Robert Rauschenberg, Robert Ryman, Spomenko Skrbic, Frank Stella