Galerie Nathalie Obadia is very happy to present Trocken Lassen (Let dry), Meuser’s third exhibition after Tout va bien Alles in Butter in 2007 and Strubbel die Katz in 2015.
Born in 1947, in Essen, in the Ruhr region, Meuser is one of the most emblematic minimalist German painters. A former student of Joseph Beuys and Erwin Heerich (along with the likes of Martin Kippenberger, Albert Oehlen, and Günther Förg), at the prestigious Düsseldorf Academy of Art, he has been a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts, Karlsruhe, since 1992. That same year, he was invited by Jan Hoet to participate in documenta IX, in Kassel.
As a young man, Meuser, son of an engineer at a factory in Essen, began his art education under the influence of Russian constructivism (from Malevitch to Mondrian) but also that of American minimalism (from Ellsworth Kelly to Donald Judd). The artist’s questioning of these movements is incarnated in the rigorousness of his work and constantly guides his reflections.
In his work, Meuser has developed a process of collecting metallic objects, which he finds at landfills, especially those of his native Essen or of Karlsruhe. He then transforms these objects by distorting them in places, painting them—here, in oil—and sometimes toying with the effect of trompe-l’oeil. In fact, his brand-new steel works, on show at the gallery, one painted a brilliant yellow, another a faded purple, some rust-colored, others gray, confuse our perception of the materials’ original state. These heavy sculptures, placed on the ground or hung on white walls, create one large composition that appears to be in motion. Characterized by ambivalence and tension, they seem at once to be anchored in the space’s very architecture and to float around us.
The multitude of nuances, the play on shadow and light, the transparencies and the variety of textures animate these sculptures by enhancing their plasticity. The artist offers us dynamic and vivid shapes, via simple gestures and disconcerting sincerity. All of a sudden, his work appears to transcend minimal art.
Meuser annihilates time, while simultaneously highlighting the Past. His work is an echo to Essen, his birthplace and the symbolic center of Western Germany’s steel sector, also immortalized in the photographs of Bernd and Hilla Becher. These fragments—fossils charged with personal and collective History—paint the social portrait of the post-war German population. The objects, whose original functions are sometimes impossible to guess, also evoke the excessively consumeristic society and the process of mechanization.