Artforum: Critics’ Picks
Baer Ridgway Exhibitions
November 20–January 3
Salty ocean air is tangy and vividly corrosive, and those attributes are apparent in Wolfgang Ganter’s nautically themed works, brought together in an exhibition fittingly titled “Seasick.” The Berlin-based artist taps the visceral nature of maritime life right from the start––one of the first works in the show is a shellac-covered barrel with a single fish poking out from the top. It resembles decor from a family seafood restaurant—if designed by Paul McCarthy––and seems to be filled to the brim with blood-red resin. This sculpture teeters on the border of being puerile, but Ganter admirably restrains himself from filling the container. He does better with a series of photographs derived from found, degraded slides—images that he has further distressed, bringing them to a point of acid-trip chemical beauty. They have the look of film burning in a projector, or pictures oxidized into vibrantly unnatural hues. One, titled Stars, 2008, is a fairly intact beach-scape accented with snowflake like bursts of pale blue and purple. Such photographs have graphic appeal, but the closer you look, the more organically beautiful they seem.
The gallery’s lower level functions as a sculpturally accented screening room for a rollicking ten-minute high-definition video titled The Flying Dutchman, 2008. Inspired by the ghost-ship legend, the piece shows off Ganter’s facility with kinetic sculpture. Shot within a large construction of found industrial objects that resembles a fishing boat’s interior and poop deck rocking and swaying, the piece suggests Rube Goldberg contraptions that bang, clank, and thud, as well as a loose narrative. The action recalls a darker, seafaring version of Fischli and Weiss’s Der Lauf der Dinge (The Way Things Go), 1987, with a little production advice from Matthew Barney. The Flying Dutchman seems like an entertainingly abject, low-tech theme-park attraction, one that manages a good share of thrills and cacophonous spills.
— Glen Helfand