Klemens Gasser “Antigone Things”


This is a press release.  Klemens told me he didn't think he'd get press.  He said he thought this was the press.  Sort of, he said that.  He showed me some canvases that are going to be in the show, and then he showed me some canvases that aren't going to be in the show.  For context, he showed me the ones that aren't going to be in the show.  For context: the ones that aren't going to be in the show are raw canvases with drying paint pressed through to the other side of the canvas.  Not all the paint, but a big enough glob of it to run down the back.  The paintings were weirdly erotic.  They're about what we don't see, i.e., what's under the clothes under the table.  The new canvases—uh, to get all press release about it, seven of them—are raw canvas, each one with a single page glued to the back.  The glue and paper on the back of the canvas distorts the front of the canvas.  A raised impression of the page on the back of the canvas shows on the front of the canvas.  The works will hang on the sheetrocked walls of a large cargo container hauled by a truck.  The moving gallery will be placed in front of the Klemens Gasser & Tanja Grunert Gallery, which was recently flooded.  Klemens told me he has not had much to do with being a gallery dealer for five years.  He's also been making movies and writing, and one of his films and a novella of his will also be in the show.  He wrote his own press release, which to my eye looked just fine—press releases for art exhibitions are supposed to be impenetrable.  But he wanted something else.  My impression was that he wanted someone to make sense of it all, which is typical of a press release, but that he also want something that was not a press release.  

The show, "Antigone Things," is art about this: why do we buy, make and show art?  Klemens has heard far too much of the following: "I want to explore light in my paintings"; "I want to explore space in my paintings"; "I want to educate so-and-so about so-and-so through my installations"; "I want to satirize so-and-so by acting like such-and-such is not a satire"; etc.  In his canvases, Klemens puts forth two reasons to buy, make, show art: masturbation, meditation.  The pages he pastes to the back of his canvases have one-page "stories" that are either meditative or masturbatory (the works are titled accordingly).  The irony, of course: from the front, the two acts look exactly the same, and the (to get snobby for the press release) "object correlative" engenders the dual presence of onanism and om-ism.

Reasons to show the "novel" (which Klemens noted was of course a presumptuous term, given the length of the work, 80 pages): to get a publisher, and/or to find a venue for something that probably shouldn't be published.  All too common, the former and the latter, but the latter rational is rich in pathos—it is the fall of the artist, the ultimate lesson, which is failure (no matter the recognition, no matter the technical achievement).  In the present artworld, it is very often the knowledge of failure that justifies a fabrication—whether bad novel or blank canvas—as art.

Last item on the checklist, a movie, which I haven't seen.  I couldn't exactly follow why I couldn't see it.  My notes say there's lip synching and it can be vulgar, that someone was begging to survive.  Wait, Klemens describes the movie in the press release, and I think Klemens’ press release is part of the show—or rather, that it should be.  So, I'm signing off, but here's the press release (uh, to keep in formation, here's the "artist statement").  Oh, wait, before that, I should say who I am, right?  Lately I've been trying to sign everything with an X.  OK, John Reed signs off and Klemens Gasser offers his "artist statement":

Klemens Gasser “Antigone Things”

The show consists mainly of paintings plus a stacked novel and a video.

All paintings are raw, unprimed canvases of various sizes, rectangular or square and from 2 series: Meditation Paintings and Masturbation paintings. Looking at these paintings does not evoke a sense of beautiful sleek minimal work but a strong feeling of left there, abandonment, isolation.

The titles that go with them are important, but not presented anywhere except on a plastic sleeved check list on the gallery desk and referenced in this press release. These tiles are long, unpleasantly long, from 5 lines to one and a half pages. The titles themselves tell the backstories for masturbations, embarrassingly disclosed by the artist, manifesting an activity not usually deemed glorious. In a similar way the extensive meditation painting titles are a record of thoughts that bubbled up during vipassana meditation, a technique that concentrates on watching the breath with appearing thoughts left there un-judged to return to the breath. The recorded thoughts and sensual impressions are irrelevant, one as good or as bad as the other, Einstein’s thinking the same as anybody else’s in this case the artist’s. With the tender appendix of the title to these paintings they gain a new universal and existential dimension which explores the senselessness of life and its activities. A desolate, paradox rat tale like the unpainted paintings themselves.

The simply bound novel “Less”, presented stacked on a plywood shelf with attached post it inviting to take one is an attempt for distribution of an outcry, a shamefully desperate love story that refuses itself to narration, the structure of language, well spoken English, common sense, losing its thread and slipping into pornography at any bend.

In the video “Antigone Things” three women of various ages are tucked underneath a table, lip-syncing the script that they previously read. Gasser’s view on Antigone is unfriendly and he sees in her not the modern heroine that challenges the law of state but a presumptuous spoiled girl that begs for her life and would give and do anything for one more breath, like many of us.

This is Klemens Gasser’s first solo show. He lives and works in New York. 


Klemens Gasser and Tanja Grunert  is pleased to open their new project space GASSER GRUNERT ³ located in a CC Courier 20’ cube rental truck in front of the gallery at 524 West 19th Street with the first solo show of Klemens Gasser. The exhibition will open on Tuesday, November 13th from 6 PM to 8 PM and last until Saturday the 17th. Telephone 646 944 6197, tanja@gassergrunert.net, www.gassergrunert.net.