Isa Melsheimer, Der unerfreuliche Zustand der Textur KINDL – Centre for Contemporary Art, Berlin Isa Melsheimer, Der unerfreuliche Zustand der Textur KINDL – Centre for Contemporary Art, Berlin
March 27—May 30, 2020

Isa Melsheimer, Der unerfreuliche Zustand der Textur KINDL – Centre for Contemporary Art, Berlin

Follow Isa Melsheimer in an exclusive behind the scene tour of her solo exhibition, Der unerfreuliche Zustand der Textur, currently on view at KINDL – Centre for Contemporary Art, Berlin. The artist engages in depth with the exhibition space of Maschinenhaus M2, traces its energy flows, and places her objects like markings within the architecture.

 

In her works, Isa Melsheimer (b 1968 in Neuss, lives in Berlin) deals with architectural and urban spaces, including their formal language, functional history, and social significance. Her materials are heterogeneous: heavy, hard, and resistant materials such as glass, concrete, and ceramic are combined with embroidered curtains, textile masks, and even ensembles of living plants.

 

The finely crafted and “handmade” always plays a role in her objects and installations. Since the 1990s the artist has also created gouaches that function as an architectural archive, in which she uses found photographs to illustrate the structures and functioning of built spaces.

 

The exhibition is curated by Kathrin Becker.

Known for her engagement with the history of architectural styles—especially the legacy of Modernism and 1950s-1970s examples of concrete architecture—Melsheimer’s works are expressions of her intense research as well as formal investigations. The artist acts as an archeologist of often forgotten or neglected buildings, recreating their distinctive shapes both from her study and from her vivid re-imagining of the forms and the spirit of the structures.

 

Her objects take a certain amount of free license, sometimes containing elements of fantastic recreation, but are always infused with a deep understanding and sympathy for their architectural sources.

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The glazed ceramic takes as its source Gae Aulenti's designs for the 1972 exhibition Italy: The New Domestic Landscape at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. An Italian postmodern architect, Aulenti is perhaps best known for her redesign of the interior of the Musée d'Orsay in Paris from 1980-86.

In the course of researching buildings, visiting sites, and sifting through the visual material, the artist explores her own relationship to the particular edifice. Since the found photographs on which some of her works are based often are in black and white, the artist effectively reimagines the colors of the buildings and their interiors, unrestrained by the strictures of verisimilitude.

 

Her glazed ceramics find another kind of representation of architectural structures that depart in scale, material and color from the sources. Although their scale recalls the miniaturized and schematic appearance of preliminary architectural models, the material and colors add a fantastic, playful aspect, and even let the works appear akin to individual personages.

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Exhibition view: Isa Melsheimer, Der unerfreuliche Zustand der Textur, Maschinenhaus M2, KINDL – Centre for Contemporary Art, Berlin, 2020. Photo © Oliver Mark
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Isa Melsheimer’s Insecta series, 2014, explicitly borrows from all kinds of beetles and spiders and their mutability, although due to their textile, pastel-colored surfaces the masks have something approachable about them, nearly stuffed-animal-like.


— Aneta Palenga, "I see something you don't see, and it is...", Psychotropische Landschaften, Städtische Galerie Delmenhorst, 2018, p. 76

Isa Melsheimer created this series for a play that had children lead around adults, who were both blind to the children’s world and literally blinded by the masks.

 

The colorful, handmade Insecta masks—previously exhibited at the Städtische Galerie Delmenhorst in 2018—have a playful quality but are also vaguely reminiscent of tribal and ritual objects.

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Isa Melsheimer's film was produced on the occasion of the 2017 Urban Lights Ruhr Festival in Marl, near Münster. The film was shot on location, in a large fountain that is part of a public square within a building complex from the 1960s that includes the city's town hall. Switched-off in recent years because of damage and financial restraints, Melsheimer had the basin filled with water and staged a water ballet with synchronized swimmers. In addition to the choreography which Melsheimer created in collaboration with the well-known choreographer Frank Willens, the artist produced costumes and masks for each performer.

 

Melsheimer's video Wasserballett für Marl is both an homage and an ironic challenge to the city to come to terms with their architectural heritage. The artifice of the movements of the synchronized swimmers, a sport popular especially in the 1950s and 1960s, is posed in playful contrast with the architecture of the same period. In the backdrop of the Marl cityscape, the video merges layers of associations: the optimism of the 1950s and 1960s translated into notions of post-World War II urban renewal and the legacy of that project in its somewhat run-down present condition.

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Exhibition view: Isa Melsheimer, Der unerfreuliche Zustand der Textur, Maschinenhaus M2, KINDL – Centre for Contemporary Art, Berlin, 2020. Photo © Jens Ziehe
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This large-scale ceramic work is based on a life-sized whale heart. In 2015, the 300-kilogram heart of a blue whale that had beached itself on the coast of Newfoundland traveled to Germany in order to in turn be plastinated there for a museum in Toronto. This circuitous route was featured in German newspapers where Melsheimer encountered the images.

 

The motifs refer to Isa Melsheimer's artist residency on Fogo Island, a popular whale-watching location in Newfoundland.

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The small heart sculptures hold their own as sassy, rosy creatures; one of them is set upright like a nude, positively obscenely posing beauty. (...) A gaze fired by one’s imagination that slides over the monstrosity follows the rises, layers, chasms, and trenches of a landscape. Viewed from a different perspective, one believes to be looking at an amorphous creature with lappets and wrinkles, with swelling forms, lewdly sprouting tubes, crust, and severed tentacles.

 

— Annett Reckert, "Psychotropic Landscapes", Psychotropische Landschaften, Städtische Galerie Delmenhorst, 2018, p. 60

 

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The works of the Tuch (Cloth) series by Isa Melsheimer consist of sheets of old curtain fabric, found and embroidered by the artist. The surface of the fabric preserves the signs of its use, such as folds, stains and faded fields of color. 

 

The embroidery added by the artist introduces a new narrative into this 'naturally-created' abstracted landscape of a worn-down cloth.

The embroidery of Tuch (Schneeeule) / Cloth (Snow Owl) shows a naturalistic-looking motive of a snow owl on the blank surface of the fabric. The shiny threads of the embroidered image of the owl contrast with the soft opaque cloth of the curtain.

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In Tuch (Loch I) / (Cloth (Hole I) the pearl embroidery is sewn along the edges of a burned hole. The surface of the fabric preserves the signs of its use, like folds, stains and faded fields of color.

 

The embroidery introduces a new narrative into this 'naturally' created landscape of a worn-down cloth. It emphasizes a seemingly insignificant, quotidian, but potentially dramatic event.

The decoration of Tuch (Loch I) / (Cloth (Hole I) accentuates the signs of destruction, the burned hole and torn parts of the cloth. Through embroidery, the signs of destruction appear to be preserved like a precious memory.

 

In the work, the artist plays with the contrast of materialities, the heavy and dense pearl ornament as opposed to the soft, silky quality of the fabrics.

This textile work focuses on the organic and nature, while also including references to art historical depictions (such as American nineteenth-century painter Winslow Homer's watercolors of jumping fish or Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai's famous wood print The Great Wave off Kanagawa from circa 1830).

Exhibition view: Isa Melsheimer, Der unerfreuliche Zustand der Textur, Maschinenhaus M2, KINDL – Centre for Contemporary Art, Berlin, 2020. Photo © Oliver Mark
Exhibition view: Isa Melsheimer, Der unerfreuliche Zustand der Textur, Maschinenhaus M2, KINDL – Centre for Contemporary Art, Berlin, 2020. Photo © Jens Ziehe
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Exhibition view: Isa Melsheimer, Der unerfreuliche Zustand der Textur, Maschinenhaus M2, KINDL – Centre for Contemporary Art, Berlin, 2020. Photo © Oliver Mark
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Exhibition view: Isa Melsheimer, Der unerfreuliche Zustand der Textur, Maschinenhaus M2, KINDL – Centre for Contemporary Art, Berlin, 2020. Photo © Jens Ziehe
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Communication With The Rotten Past V is based on the Blue Box House, a Brutalist style residence designed by Mayumi Miyawaki in 1971. The title derives from the structures bright blue exterior which is typical of the architect's style at the time. An original feature of this concrete box-shaped building is the opening underneath the cantilevered section which was intended to allow for bamboo to grow up within the structure to a courtyard area above.

 

Melsheimer’s glazed ceramics find another kind of representation of architectural structures that depart in scale, material and color from the sources. Although their scale recalls the miniaturized and schematic appearance of preliminary architectural models, the material and colors add a fantastic, playful aspect.

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The work takes as a point of departure the so-called Okö-Haus (Ecological house) by the pioneering German architect Frei Otto. Conceived as a basic structure that could be individualized by each owner, the building sought to partake in a communal spirit of shared creativity. Frei Otto was awarded the Pritzker Prize, perhaps the highest honor in architecture, posthumously in 2015.

 

Melsheimer takes the central framework conceived by Otto and inhabits it with a collection of vintage ceramic vases from the 1970s and 1980s. Sold under the name FAT Lava, the vases were ubiquitous at the time of the building’s design and come to stand for a generalized idea of aesthetics and its popular trends.

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Click HERE to read Isa Melsheimer's interview with Collectors Agenda and get a peek at her Berlin studio.