TimeOut New York: Wolfgang Staehle

Postmasters Gallery

September 10 – October 16

A version of this review appeared in TimeOut New York:    

Wolfgang Staehle’s current show at Postmasters Gallery consists of two large-scale, one small, live digital projections.  “Midtown,” “Eastpoint,” “Niagra,” and a one-hour video, “Niagra,” re-envision the frame, in painting and technology.  Staehle’s “canvas,” in real-time, presents shifting digital stills in a panoramic scale and lush palette—and orient on New York, literally, as a window onto the nation, and by extension, everywhere else.

The notion of realism in contemporary art was tainted, for decades, by the sentimentality implied by the milieu.  Now, works in the equally loose categories of abstraction, or even pop, may also exude an outdatedness—resulting in a collapse of these distinctions.  Since 9/11, the artificiality of these categories has been particularly transparent—who could take serious the pretense necessary to maintain such barriers?  

Staehle, with his September 2001 live transmissions of three landscapes—from Berlin, the medieval monastery of Camburg, and lower Manhattan—became quintessential of this unfolding of genres, and history.  During the course of Staehle’s ’01 show, it was not only the skyline of NYC that was in turmoil.  In politics and art, the old paradigms (however long they had in fact been obsolete) were now apparently obsolete.  Staehle, born in Stuttgart, had reinvigorated Andy Warhol’s eight-hour 1964 film “Empire,” as well as the idea that there was a frontier—the frontier of Albert Bierstadt and Jackson Pollack.  In Staehle’s present show, 2004, the work has been crystalline in its impact—the world is out there now.  Without a laughable romanticism, it is possible to see the landscape again.  For better or worse, we are no longer trapped in the past.  There is some future, however unknown, however mysterious.  And not just for Americans.