Gabriel Vormstein’s beguiling reinterpretations of historicized Modernist icons fall somewhere between the archive and the recycled image. The female figure is central to his appropriations extracted from their original canonical source; the Voguish demimonde straight out of Egon Schiele or the ornamentation found in Klimt, or the finely drawn lines of Modigliani’s women are often contrasted by minimal, abstract, neo-geo, or decorative motifs. Identifying with the formal beauty of Viennese Modernity and its repetition of classical forms Vormstein’s early 21st century reinterpretations are materially underscored by his use of newspaper and plastic in place of canvas. Our present day psychological states and antagonisms are embedded in these picture doppelgangers where the editorial narratives, photo reproductions, ad copy, and typographical columns become structural elements in his cursive style of composition.
For the show’s title Cornament & Rime, he alludes to the notorious Adolf Loos text ‘Ornament and Crime’ as a negotiation between the ornamental motifs often dismissed as decorative and his specified choice distillation of the historicized remixes. Taking his cue from Warhol to Baldessari, and perhaps even Georg Baselitz remix painting’s, Gabriel Vormstein, through his own subjective choice of cropping, and slight color alterations, translates such images from one context to another. As both a catalog of iconographies from a past epoch and a personalized account of his place in the time/space construct they resonate with our postindustrial obsession with images.
In their gritty surfaces lie a process art of painterly physicality and a bold confrontation with the titans of Modernity. They make for a stirring verisimilitude between the original, the reproduced, the real, and the virtual. As memento mori they are cognizant that enduring images transcend their time and in a continuous loop of history retain the power of talismans.
Gabriel Vormstein (b. 1974 in Konstanz, Germany) lives and works in Berlin, Germany. Recent solo exhibitions include Cornament & Rime at Patricia Low Contemporary, Gstaad, Switzerland, 2011; Catch as catch can at Almine Rech Gallery, Paris, 2011; Baby ABC at Casey Kaplan, New York, NY, 2010. Recent group exhibitions include Seltsam, so lose im Raum at Kulturstiftung Schloss Agathenburg, Agathenburg, Germany 2010; Cargo Manifest at Kunsthalle Autocenter, Berlin, Germany, 2009; Berlin 2000 at PaceWildenstein, New York, NY, 2009; Don Brown, Daniel Lergon, R.H.Quaytman, Gabriel Vormstein, Lawrence Weiner at Almine Rech Gallery, Brussels, Belgium, 2009; Made in Germany at Kestner Gesellschaft, Sprengel Museum Hannover, Kunstverein Hannover, Hannover, Germany, 2007; Of Mice + Men: 4th Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art curated by Maurizio Cattelan, Massimiliano Gioni and Ali Subotnick, Berlin, Germany, 2006. The artist was the recipient of the Graduiertenstipendium des Landes Baden-Württemberg Award in 2002 and was nominated for the 2009/2010 Sovereign European Art prize.
Gabriel Vormstein, Cornament & Rime is organized by Max Henry, independent curator and writer.