Reading Rämistrasse #29: Mitchell Anderson on Mitchell Anderson at Maria Bernheim

[Kunsthalle Zürich disclaimer: Mitchell Anderson is writing here about his own exhibition]

Two of the easiest recent tricks artists have harnessed hanging exhibitions are a monochrome palette and colored lighting. In Mitchell Anderson’s current exhibition at Galerie Maria Bernheim he combines both for a purely visual double punch masking a void. The exhibition consists of three bodies of work: large paintings depicting, in line, a hand holding a rose, neon signs of different font forms reading ‘join’, and sculptural arrangements of free items removed from local streets. Nearly everything is rendered in shades of red and pink.

Installation view of Mitchell Anderson's exhibition

The press release would have us believe that this colour choice refers to the polysemic meanings of red (revolution, love and caution among others), omitting the open secret that it is the most lucrative in the sale of art.[1] That point seems important here with the dense hanging, ordered in series down either wall of the gallery, like supermarket aisles filled with different brands of essentially the same product.

The three sculptures are scattered, as if to negate this fact, and include boxes of books and drinking glasses. Each is marked as ‘gratis’ or ‘zum Mitnehmen’, found situations that supposedly underline “how generosity is outwardly portrayed in society”. Most of all they illustrate art's endless drive to mimic capitalist impulses, capturing the free and charging for it. It’s a cruel and distinctly ungenerous joke that the bench, centre stage where one might sit and view the paintings, is thus made unusable.

Installation view of Mitchell Anderson's exhibition

The paintings are thick panels; heavy drips cascading down their sides reveal the hot wax method behind them. The medium captures brushstrokes and marks within its layers and thus creates the illusion of depth. The paintings are executed from vibrant pinks to harsh reds and most have something unpleasantly fleshy about them. The image, with concentric circles emanating from the main rose motif, is grabbed from the animated film Beauty and the Beast (1991).

That image – of a hand offering a rose – seems again to relate to the professed subject of giving, but whether a profound idea can be communicated effectively through this random design, six decades after the emergence of Pop art, remains a mystery. The politics Anderson proposes, if any, are enduring but elementary. In a year hallmarked by very specific events, I wonder about the tact of suggesting that anything away from the timely now be considered in art. Or, if work this oven-ready can even attempt it. Titling this exhibition “Partial Gift” seems reasonable, as middling largesse is simply selfishness. Anderson’s wall of four neons, burning red like hell at night, asks us again and again to join. I’d suggest we resist.

[1] Silverman, Rosa. “Paint It Red: the Secret Reason for a Painting's High Price.” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 12 June 2013, www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-news/10114695/Paint-it-red-the-secre...

Mitchell Anderson: Partial Gift, Galerie Maria Bernheim

November 13 2020–2 January 2021

Images: courtesy Galerie Maria Bernheim

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If art criticism is losing ground, we must act. That’s why we created space for criticism – Reading Rämistrasse – on the Kunsthalle Zürich website and publish reviews of current exhibitions. What is published here does not represent the opinion of the Kunsthalle Zürich. Because criticism has to be independent. Feedback or questions? Email 

 

17.12.2020