Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence

Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence

Esther Schipper, Berlin
January 14 – March 27, 2021
Closing in
  • Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence


     

    Esther Schipper is pleased to present an Online Viewing Room dedicated to Isa Melsheimer’s third solo exhibition with the gallery. 

     

    Entitled false ruins and lost innocence, the exhibition includes three large-scale ceramics, textile works, and a suite of gouaches.

  • Known for her engagement with the history of architectural styles, Isa Melsheimer's (b. 1968) works are expressions of her intense research as well as formal investigations.

     

    The artist, whose work engages with modernist, postmodernist, and brutalist aesthetics, has in recent years increasingly introduced organic elements into the buildings, infused by her reading of post-human theoretical debates, as well as her engagement with Metabolist architecture, a movement originating in 1960s Japan.

     

    Isa Melsheimer's works carry their far-reaching associations lightly: personal, literary, historical, philosophical, architectural references are resolved in an intense materiality.

  • Exhibition view: Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence, Esther Schipper, Berlin, 2020. Photo © Andrea Rossetti
    Exhibition view: Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence, Esther Schipper, Berlin, 2020. Photo © Andrea Rossetti
  • Exhibition view: Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence, Esther Schipper, Berlin, 2020. Photo © Andrea Rossetti
    Exhibition view: Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence, Esther Schipper, Berlin, 2020. Photo © Andrea Rossetti
  • Exhibition view: Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence, Esther Schipper, Berlin, 2020. Photo © Andrea Rossetti
    Exhibition view: Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence, Esther Schipper, Berlin, 2020. Photo © Andrea Rossetti
  • false ruins and lost innocence 1, 2020


     

     

    The large-scale ceramic takes as point of departure the so-called Cuckoo Coffee House in Da Nang, Vietnam, an airy building from 2019 designed by a young Vietnamese architectural firm called Tropical Space.

     

    The new sculpture is one of the artist's largest and technically complex ceramics to date. Similar to her idiosyncratic use of concrete, Melsheimer who began to work with the material in 2013, has pushed the boundaries of this craft in scale and technique, making the medium completely her own.

     

     

     

    Cuckoo Coffee House in Da Nang, Vietnam by architectural firm Tropical Space, 2019. Photo © Oki Hiroyuki

  • Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence 1, 2020, large ceramics, plinth, 104 x 80,5 x 122 cm (41 x 31 3/4 x 48 1/8 in) (work), 50 x 160 x 110 cm (19 3/4 x 63 x 43 1/4 in) (plinth). Photo © Andrea Rossetti
    Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence 1, 2020, large ceramics, plinth, 104 x 80,5 x 122 cm (41 x 31 3/4 x 48 1/8 in) (work), 50 x 160 x 110 cm (19 3/4 x 63 x 43 1/4 in) (plinth). Photo © Andrea Rossetti
  • Inside the multiple nestled shapes overlooking an enclosed courtyard, a small forest of trees appears to thrive, their trunks richly glazed.

     

    The work exemplifies the increasing presence of organic elements in Melsheimer's ceramic works. Reinforced by the artist's 2017 residency on Fogo Islands which brought out an engagement with nature that has always been present but has gained urgency, perhaps as a consequence of ecological debates. 

  • Exhibition view: Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence, Esther Schipper, Berlin, 2020. Photo © Andrea Rossetti
    Exhibition view: Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence, Esther Schipper, Berlin, 2020. Photo © Andrea Rossetti
  • Nr. 462, 2020


     

    From a new series of large-scale gouaches, this highly abstracted work depicts the interior of a room, indicated by the grey area on top recalling a concrete ceiling, and a section of voluminous yellow drapes. The image draws on a building by the Swiss-born architect Albert Frey, who after his 1934 emigration to the US established what became known as "Desert Modernism," a distinctive style adapting to the landscape of the Western United States.

     

    Known as Frey House II—it was the architects second home—the structure was built in 1964 near Palm Springs, California. Given a sense of structure by the fragments of vertical and horizontal window frames, the large white expanse of unpainted paper makes this gouache a strikingly abstract work.

     

     

    Frey House II, Albert Frey, Palm Springs, 1964. Photo © Dan Chavkin

  • Isa Melsheimer, Nr. 462, 2020, gouache on paper, 56 x 76,5 cm (22 1/8 x 29 7/8 in) (unframed), 65 x 86 x 4 cm (25 5/8 x 33 7/8 x 1 5/8 in) (framed). Photo © Andrea Rossetti
    Isa Melsheimer, Nr. 462, 2020, gouache on paper, 56 x 76,5 cm (22 1/8 x 29 7/8 in) (unframed), 65 x 86 x 4 cm (25 5/8 x 33 7/8 x 1 5/8 in) (framed). Photo © Andrea Rossetti
  • Nr. 463, 2020


     

    This gouache depicts the interior of an otherwise sparsely furnished building with a large windowfront. The image draws on a project by the Dutch architecture firm Inside Outside that in 2011-12 introduced several textile and landscape interventions into the celebrated Maison Bordeaux originally constructed in 1994-98 by Rem Koolhaas' firm Office for Metropolitan Architecture, known as OMA.

     

    Red and pink drapery on the left side of the drawing contrast with the light blue of what the viewer assumes is the sky. While recognizable as an interior space, as the grey area on top implies a concrete ceiling, the work has an abstract sensibility.

  • Isa Melsheimer, Nr. 463, 2020, gouache on paper, 56 x 76,5 cm (22 1/8 x 29 7/8 in) (unframed), 65 x 86 x 4 cm (25 5/8 x 33 7/8 x 1 5/8 in) (framed). Photo © Andrea Rossetti
    Isa Melsheimer, Nr. 463, 2020, gouache on paper, 56 x 76,5 cm (22 1/8 x 29 7/8 in) (unframed), 65 x 86 x 4 cm (25 5/8 x 33 7/8 x 1 5/8 in) (framed). Photo © Andrea Rossetti
  • Exhibition view: Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence, Esther Schipper, Berlin, 2020. Photo © Andrea Rossetti
    Exhibition view: Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence, Esther Schipper, Berlin, 2020. Photo © Andrea Rossetti
  • Nr. 464, 2020


     

    Nr. 464 depicts the interior of a room, indicated by a tiled geometric floor and voluminous drapes against which the silhouette a figure can be seen.

     

    While recognizable as an interior space, the work also has a unusually abstract sensibility and, also rare for Melsheimer, includes a human presence.

     

     

    Photo © Inside Outside

  • Isa Melsheimer, Nr. 464, 2020, gouache on paper, 56 x 76,5 cm (22 1/8 x 29 7/8 in) (unframed), 65 x 86 x 4 cm (25 5/8 x 33 7/8 x 1 5/8 in) (framed). Photo © Andrea Rossetti
    Isa Melsheimer, Nr. 464, 2020, gouache on paper, 56 x 76,5 cm (22 1/8 x 29 7/8 in) (unframed), 65 x 86 x 4 cm (25 5/8 x 33 7/8 x 1 5/8 in) (framed). Photo © Andrea Rossetti
  • Exhibition view: Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence, Esther Schipper, Berlin, 2020. Photo © Andrea Rossetti
    Exhibition view: Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence, Esther Schipper, Berlin, 2020. Photo © Andrea Rossetti
  • false ruins and lost innocence 2, 2020


     

    The large-scale ceramic is based on a brutalist building, Boston’s City Hall by Kallmann McKinnell & Knowles / Campbell, Aldrich & Nulty: Boston City Hall, 1962–1968.

     

    The building is among the many brutalist structures that have fallen out of favor, and have been demolished or, as this one was, was slated for demolition in 2006. Melsheimer has often depicted no longer existing or soon to be demolished buildings.

     

     

    Boston City Hall, Kallmann McKinnell & Knowles / Campbell, Aldrich & Nulty, 1962–68. Photo © Bill Lebovic/Library of Congress, 1981

  • Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence 2, 2020, ceramic, plinth, 96 x 78 x 120 cm (37 3/4 x 30 3/4 x 47 1/4 in) (work), 50 x 190 x 160 cm (19 3/4 x 74 3/4 x 63 in) (plinth). Photo © Andrea Rossetti
  • Depicting in broad strokes the structure of the City Hall’s characteristic façade, Melsheimer has added flanking human legs. While based on casts of her own legs, the ceramic limbs also refer to those of mythological figures at the Neue Palais in Potsdam, and more specifically to the 18th century penchant for faux ruins, and for combining mythological and grotesque figures in fantastic grottos. Thus the cavernous interior of the ceramic structure is filled with clusters of architectural ruins that are richly glazed.

  • Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence 2, 2020, ceramic, plinth, 96 x 78 x 120 cm (37 3/4 x 30 3/4 x 47 1/4 in) (work), 50 x 190 x 160 cm (19 3/4 x 74 3/4 x 63 in) (plinth). Photo © Andrea Rossetti
    Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence 2, 2020, ceramic, plinth, 96 x 78 x 120 cm (37 3/4 x 30 3/4 x 47 1/4 in) (work), 50 x 190 x 160 cm (19 3/4 x 74 3/4 x 63 in) (plinth). Photo © Andrea Rossetti
  • Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence 2, 2020, ceramic, plinth, 96 x 78 x 120 cm (37 3/4 x 30 3/4 x 47 1/4 in) (work), 50 x 190 x 160 cm (19 3/4 x 74 3/4 x 63 in) (plinth). On the wall: Nr. 461, 2020, gouache on paper, 56 x 76,5 cm (22 1/8 x 29 7/8 in) (unframed), 65 x 86 x 4 cm (25 5/8 x 33 7/8 x 1 5/8 in) (framed). Photo © Andrea Rossetti
    Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence 2, 2020, ceramic, plinth, 96 x 78 x 120 cm (37 3/4 x 30 3/4 x 47 1/4 in) (work), 50 x 190 x 160 cm (19 3/4 x 74 3/4 x 63 in) (plinth). On the wall: Nr. 461, 2020, gouache on paper, 56 x 76,5 cm (22 1/8 x 29 7/8 in) (unframed), 65 x 86 x 4 cm (25 5/8 x 33 7/8 x 1 5/8 in) (framed). Photo © Andrea Rossetti
  • Nr. 461, 2020


     

    The work combines concrete architectural structure with two rectangular sections of color, one pink, the other green.

     

    The image of the architectural structure draws on the Casa Antônio Junqueira in São Paulo, built 1976-80 by the Brazilian architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha. Several plants expanding in ornate undulations are depicted silhouetted against the elements.

  • Isa Melsheimer, Nr. 461, 2020, gouache on paper, 56 x 76,5 cm (22 1/8 x 29 7/8 in) (unframed), 65 x 86 x 4 cm (25 5/8 x 33 7/8 x 1 5/8 in) (framed). Photo © Andrea Rossetti
    Isa Melsheimer, Nr. 461, 2020, gouache on paper, 56 x 76,5 cm (22 1/8 x 29 7/8 in) (unframed), 65 x 86 x 4 cm (25 5/8 x 33 7/8 x 1 5/8 in) (framed). Photo © Andrea Rossetti
  • Exhibition view: Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence, Esther Schipper, Berlin, 2020. Photo © Andrea Rossetti
    Exhibition view: Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence, Esther Schipper, Berlin, 2020. Photo © Andrea Rossetti
  • Nr. 465, 2020


     

    The gouache presents the interior of an otherwise sparsely furnished building with a central cylindrical shape of reddish drapes. The image draws on a project by the Dutch architecture firm Inside Outside that in 2011-12 introduced several textile and landscape interventions into the celebrated Maison Bordeaux originally constructed in 1994-98 by Rem Koolhaas' firm Office for Metropolitan Architecture, known as OMA.

     

    The colorful tiled floor draws on an Italian old master painting in Berlin’s Gemäldegalerie. Paired with a grey ceiling reminiscent of concrete, while on the right differently colored vases are depicted, on the left a fragment of finely drawn drapery appears to hover ghostlike.

  • Isa Melsheimer, Nr. 465, 2020, gouache on paper, 70 x 100 cm (27 1/2 x 39 3/8 in) (unframed), 79 x 109 x 4 cm (31 1/8 x 42 7/8 x 1 5/8 in) (framed). Photo © Andrea Rossetti
    Isa Melsheimer, Nr. 465, 2020, gouache on paper, 70 x 100 cm (27 1/2 x 39 3/8 in) (unframed), 79 x 109 x 4 cm (31 1/8 x 42 7/8 x 1 5/8 in) (framed). Photo © Andrea Rossetti
  • Nr. 467, 2020


     

    The large-scale gouache combines a landmark building, the Villa Taddei in Fiesole, near Florence by the Italian architect Leonardo Salvioli built in 1966, with elements from a famous Renaissance wall painting, Pinturicchio’s Cappella Baglioni, in Spello, from circa 1500.

     

    Melsheimer has isolated the figure of an angel from the larger image depicting an Adoration of the Magi scene, integrating the motif into her depiction of the brutalist architectural structure on a dark ground. The artist depicted the drapery and one of the angel’s bird-like wings, but not the figure’s face or body. Placed against an otherwise dark background, the brutalist building appears to rest on a thick web of green plants.

     

     

    Detail: Pinturicchio, Cappella Baglioni, Spello, ca. 1500

  • Isa Melsheimer, Nr. 467, 2020, gouache on paper, 70 x 100 cm (27 1/2 x 39 3/8 in) (unframed), 79 x 109 x 4 cm (31 1/8 x 42 7/8 x 1 5/8 in) (framed). Photo © Andrea Rossetti
    Isa Melsheimer, Nr. 467, 2020, gouache on paper, 70 x 100 cm (27 1/2 x 39 3/8 in) (unframed), 79 x 109 x 4 cm (31 1/8 x 42 7/8 x 1 5/8 in) (framed). Photo © Andrea Rossetti
  • Exhibition view: Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence, Esther Schipper, Berlin, 2020. Photo © Andrea Rossetti
    Exhibition view: Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence, Esther Schipper, Berlin, 2020. Photo © Andrea Rossetti
  • false ruins and lost innocence 3, 2020


     

    The large-scale ceramic work takes as point of departure a building by the famous modernist architect Le Corbusier, Villa Shodhan, built in Ahmedabad in India between 1951-56.

     

    A late work built while the architect was constructing his massive government complex in Chandigarh, the use of unfinished concrete has a roughness foreshadowing the later aesthetics of Brutalist architecture.

     

     

    Villa Shodhan, Le Corbusier, Ahmedabad, 1951-56. Photo © G. E. Kidder Smith. Copyright © Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • Inside the structure rests a ceramic horse’s head. It’s cast based on a famous Greek sculpture dating to circa 438 BCE, from the Parthenon’s tympanum depicting the chariot of the moon goddess Selene on the Acropolis in Athens.

     

    The head stands for the long history of art and architecture, but it also constitutes a disruptive influence: an animal, organic forms, the unpredictability of life itself, represented by this example of ancient Greek art.

  • Exhibition view: Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence, Esther Schipper, Berlin, 2020. Photo © Andrea Rossetti
    Exhibition view: Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence, Esther Schipper, Berlin, 2020. Photo © Andrea Rossetti
    • Isa Melsheimer Embroidered Curtain Appliqué, 2020 Embroidered appliqué 21 x 29,7 cm (8 1/4 x 11 3/4 in)
      Isa Melsheimer
      Embroidered Curtain Appliqué, 2020
      Embroidered appliqué
      21 x 29,7 cm (8 1/4 x 11 3/4 in)

    Embroidered Curtain Appliqué, 2020


     

    Embroidered Curtain Appliqué is a custom-made textile work that can be applied to various fabric surfaces, such as curtains, furniture fabrics or clothing garments.

     

    The work shown in images is an example. This motif is drawn from an event in Vatican City In 2014, when during a Sunday morning service at the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City, Pope Francis and two children released white doves as a peace gesture. The doves were immediately attacked by other birds. The image links with Melsheimer's art historical quotes in recent gouaches from the annunciation, the holy spirit represented as dove.

  • Exhibition view: Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence, Esther Schipper, Berlin, 2020. Photo © Andrea Rossetti

    • Isa Melsheimer Curtain (Höhenweg), 2020 Satin curtain 416 x 790 cm (163 3/4 x 311 1/8 in)
      Isa Melsheimer
      Curtain (Höhenweg), 2020
      Satin curtain
      416 x 790 cm (163 3/4 x 311 1/8 in)

    Curtain (Höhenweg), 2020


     

    The new textile work, suspended near the entrance inside the exhibition space, combines embroidery with photographs of human forms, animals, and plants.

     

    The image of the alpine path was taken by the artist herself: it represents the tree line where vegetation changes. The shrubs recall Melsheimer's interest in topiary trees, formed by human intervention, but here are found in nature, shaped by the ecological conditions. Juxtaposed with this image of a natural environment, an urban landscape dominated by large legs covered in a textile that at the feet ends in root-like protrusions evokes the encroachment of natural forms into city life.

  • Exhibition view: Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence, Esther Schipper, Berlin, 2020. Photo © Andrea Rossetti
    Exhibition view: Isa Melsheimer, false ruins and lost innocence, Esther Schipper, Berlin, 2020. Photo © Andrea Rossetti
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