The Brooklyn Rail

MAR 2012

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MAR 2012 Issue

THOMAS SCHEIBITZ A Panoramic View of Basic Events

On View
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
January 12 – February 18, 2012
New York

Born in Germany and living in Berlin, artist Thomas Scheibitz is a solidly established painter who is pushing abstraction into new directions. Not unlike our Thomas Nozkowski, Scheibitz seeks patterns that relate to the world beyond the self. Working with small-size canvases, the artist has recently begun assembling disparate small images in various materials—photographs, painted images, etc.—into one picture plane; pictures that exist both in their own right and serve as rough templates for his abstractions, which have a tendency to work like puzzles put together in a particularly skillful way. Even in his earlier work, which is much more clearly attached to actual objects in the world, there was a flatness that undermined perspective and the presumption of three-dimensional space within a painted, two-dimensional plane. This is even more obvious in the artist’s current paintings. Yet the variety of Scheibitz’s work is considerable in the sense that he works out simple, planar compositions that can relate to architectural effects with humble curves and angular lines. A solid example of his style is “Ohne titel (no. 617)” (2011), in which a large circle at the bottom of the composition contains a duet of colored rectangles. From the top of the sphere, a curving, ropelike tube emerges and makes its way to the top of the frame.

Thomas Scheibitz, "ohne Titel (No. 619)," 2011. Oil, vinyl, ceramic paint, and pigment marker on canvas, 27 1/2 x 19 3/4 inches; 70 x 50 cm. Courtesy the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.

Painting “no. 617” introduces simple elements that make their way toward pure abstraction. The language of the piece feels fairly arbitrary, but the overall effect is exploratory and fairly challenging to anyone desiring an easy summary of its meaning. Like much of Scheibitz’s oeuvre, despite the fact that the works are highly frontal and flat, they never come off as simple, nor do they disappoint as a kind of stylized stagnation. (One painter that might help viewers understand Scheibitz is the American Stuart Davis, who also introduced extreme flatness in his compositions as one way of recognizing the boundaries of painting.) In this show, Scheibitz seems deeply invested in developing a visual language that will provide cohesion for the sheer number of discrete objects we come across in our daily lives; his assembled images, some of them painted, others photographed, reference the materials—and also the materialism—that make up our culture’s love of beautiful things.

The titleless “no. 619” (2011) is a relatively realistic landscape with an angled and shaft-like vertical, very much like an abstracted tree, that throws its shadows onto the ground on which it stands. There is a recognizable horizon line that divides the barren plane into two halves. But the image in general does not convince completely in a figurative sense; it is as if this painting were an abstraction masked as a simplified out-of-doors view.

Scheibitz is to be commended for working in a field whose boundaries have been narrowed by the great innovations of the modernists in the 20th century. He is slowly but surely expanding the vernacular of abstract art at a time when interest has turned away from the medium. “no. 623” (2011), for example, contains a ghostlike presence in gray facing a blue window; it too relates to established space, although this time it is an interior. The window—if it is a window!—is framed by a broad black band on all sides, beyond which is a gray backdrop. The painting is a knockout, effortlessly converging on the line that differentiates figuration from abstraction. When a painting like this is so well balanced between the real and the imagined, Scheibitz’s viewers can begin to contemplate what he is after: the contrapuntal energies between the internal and external world. The painter’s brand of abstraction never leaves figuration completely, nor does the real world ever dominate his nonobjective bent. What results instead is a stalemate of particular beauty.


Jonathan Goodman

Jonathan Goodman is a teacher and author specializing in Asian art, about which he has been writing for more than twenty years.


The Brooklyn Rail

MAR 2012

All Issues