Endless Shades of Grey

Grey is the new black––or at least it ought to be. Contemporary art titans Miriam Böhm, Charlotte Posenenske and James Turrell have convinced me of this with their stunning show of breathy, articulated restraint at Wentrup Gallery. Minimalism may not fit the mood of the day with spring about to break loose here in Berlin (here’s hoping), but on the damp, dark afternoon I visited, a good dose of classic, meditative minimalism was exactly what I need to shake off the cobwebs and put a spring in my step. It seems there is a good kind of grey.

While light may not have been on the menu weather-wise, any show including Turrell’s work is bound to grapple with the elusive wave, and the curators at Wentrup did not disappoint. A series of 5 aquatints from the “First Light – Blonde” series are quietly aligned in a corner, radiating with the possibilities of space and the promise of light. In soft, elusive shades of grey a corner is rendered again and again, patiently muted, enlivened only by the brilliantly translucent planes, pyramids and polygons that seem to hover individually in the foreground of each.

Grey Matter

The magic and the mystery of these pieces cannot be overstated. The perfection, the intricacies, the detail, the dedication to the issues of perception and space, light and dark, solid and see-through—these prints gave me goosebumps, and for good reason. The remainder of the series can be seen only in collections at the Tate Modern, LACMA, and the Guggenheim in New York. Wentrup is in good company, and we the people of Berlin are presented with a unique opportunity for observation.

544747_10152769116980217_1625904488_nCharlotte Poseneske’s sculpture and Böhm’s photographs. Photo: Chris Phillips

In fact, observation is, in many ways, the theme of the show. Miriam Böhm’s unique photographic constructions, carefully layered images of objects in a neutral visual space, speak most eloquently to this prime directive. The beige-whitish pieces of cardboard propped against each other hover in space, elegant and abstract like a reduction of a Wes Anderson movie—all artful craft and alluring eccentricity. And yet, on another wall, a different series of grey and white work defies the presence of the previous pieces and and seems to regress infinitely into the wall, like a house of mirrors. From every angle the work appears different, shifting, expanding, contracting, forcing you to contemplate the act of observation itself.

And then, like a breath of fresh air, when the weight of you own contemplation becomes just a bit too much, Charlotte Posensenske’s matte grey steel metal sculptures offer escape. As though someone had outlined a cardboard box and then removed the original, the works are airy scaffoldings planted solidly on the floor, and yet each flap of the box is open at an angle, in an enticing allegory of ultimate freedom.

There is space in these works, the literal investigation of the phenomenon, but also room for the viewer to engage and explore. While some artists try to tell, Böhm, Posenenske and Turrell merely show, and suddenly grey becomes the color of possibility, of unpretentious observation, of perception itself. Grey is my new favorite color.

  • Wentrup Gallery – Miriam Böhm, Charlotte Posenenske, James Turrell “The Other Space” – Until April 19th, 2013 – Tuesday – Saturday: 11am-6pm [Price range of works: €5000 – €180,000]

Article by Hannah Nelson-Teutsch