2012 Suse Bauer – Galerie im Marstall Ahrensburg
Suse Bauer’s work is characterized by apparently contradictory themes and stylistic tendencies. It is rooted in abstraction and characterized by planar arrangements and artless ornament, containing references to Bauhaus modernism and literary quotations while reflecting Bauer’s pronounced penchant for bricolage and the handmade. Her exhibition “Der Abgrund unter mir heißt Zukunft” (The Abyss Beneath Me Is Called Future) included six paintings (oil or oil and oil pastel on paper), a floor sculpture in cast concrete (Untitled, 2018), four large-format black-and-white scans and—as the show’s epicenter, as it were—a complex installation on the floor encompassing blue yoga mats with countless penny-size punched holes and scattered ceramic objects (also Untitled, 2018). At its far end, a screen rose to the ceiling, a lattice of wood strips stained a reddish brown (Untitled, 2018); mounted on it were the ceramic reliefs In den Künstlerkolonien (In the Artist Colonies), 2017, Meine Frauengruppe (My Women’s Group), 2016, and Ausgeschlossen, Wiedereintritt (Excluded, Reentry), 2018. Loosely distributed across an airy eighteen-by-twelve grid of square fields, the arrangement read as a formal echo of the compositional principles underlying the artist’s paintings, translating them into three dimensions.
Deliberately integrating the formal idioms of visionary modernism into paintings such as Neue Pläne (New Plans), 2018; Sie gehorcht der Materie um sie beugen zu können (She Obeys Matter so as to Bend It), 2011; and the titular Der Abgrund unter mir heißt Zukunft, 2018, the artist homes in on instants of ambivalence: She pinpoints formerly utopian elements that are now perhaps no more than vacuous ornamental shells and reinterprets their emptiness as containing at least a projective power—the seeds of a kind of para-modernist visual language in which abstract forms become what she calls “semantic vessels” for the adumbration of new meaning.
Titling her show after a quotation from the Traumtexte (dream texts) of the dramatist and poet Heiner Müller, Bauer translated its simile of a free-floating bird’s-eye view of the future—a gaze that is quite literally abstract—into a play with vertical visual axes: The flatness of her paintings and ceramics, of the installation on the floor and the concrete sculpture, offered itself to the kind of top-down contemplation that is still a fairly novel perceptual mode and yet one we have all learned and internalized thanks to Google Maps, drone footage, and the like. This aspect was most salient in the four large scans in the series “Landschaft unter Aufsicht” (Landscape Under Surveillance), 2018. The imagery is reminiscent of satellite photographs or aerial shots of archaeological excavation sites, but at the same time it is abstract.
These works in fact originate in reliefs Bauer modeled in wet clay. Rather than photographing them, she reproduced them by turning a flatbed scanner on its head and mounting it above the object. This process produces various distortions and makes areas close to the scanner’s platen glass pin-sharp while others are slightly blurred—creating a specific pictorial space that manifests itself to great effect in the drastically enlarged prints. Hand-kneaded, punched, or knife-cut fragmentary shapes form archaic ensembles or, as in Landschaft unter Aufsicht (Reservat) (Landscape Under Surveillance [Reservation]), 2018, plateaus with inundated areas that, depending on the imagined scale, might be puddles or lakes. The gaze from above harbors the utopian idea of an archaeology of the future and engenders abstractions of a profound beauty, at once alien and familiar.
Translated from German by Gerrit Jackson.
2010 Suse Bauer – Galerie Conradi
Suse Bauer evolves an abstraction of ornate constructivism. This may seem a contradiction, given that constructivist approaches pursue a formal logic of the image, one that does not dwell on the decorative. With her work, however, Bauer moves directly into this contradiction. In often small, though sometimes very large, formats, she combines color fields, lines, and abstract figures in two-dimensional compositions that are as archaic as they are artificial. One might think of modern as well as abstract, utopian public art as it once flourished in East Germany (where the artist lived as a child).
Bauer takes on such associations with the titles of her work, such as Erste Verkündung der symbolhaften Anleitung zur Gestaltung der Welt (First Proclamation of the Symbolic Formula for the Design of the World) or Die Ingenieurin (The Engineer), both 2009. She makes no direct citations in her paintings, but instead gathers forms, colors, and concepts intuitively and assembles them in varied compositions. Mostly rendered in thick oil pencil on paper, the clearly contoured fields of sharply contrasted color seem homogenous at first, but on closer inspection the surfaces appear specifically articulated: Fine strokes reveal the arc of her pencil’s movement, while monochrome surfaces incorporate multiple shades and produce a subtle vibration of hue.
Bauer creates patterns that emerge via a piecemeal method. Alles was von mir Ich genannt wird (All of Me That Is Called I), 2010, for instance, comprises just a few elements. Against an intense vermilion plane, a jagged bronze cross emphasizes the diagonal and separates a reverse-L-shaped angle on the left from two vertically converging circles on the right. Here, Bauer condenses a spare formal vocabulary into an image of the stylized, enigmatic sublime.
Translated from German by Diana Reese.