Contemporary Fine Arts gallery presents Beverly’s Cousine, Georg Herold’s fourth solo exhibition with the gallery. The exhibition includes works made between 1980 and 2018 that exemplify many of the material investigations that have garnered him international renown for nearly three decades.
‘Gram,’ a humanlike figure made of roof battens and screws, kneels in the centre of the gallery: Herold has long been interested in knocking down anything put on a pedestal, literally or metaphorically. This unruliness and his use of crude materials, however, bely the scrupulous precision that informs his practice. Each work communicates a search for harmonious incongruence in form and content. While similar paradoxes can be traced through Herold’s works – the precarious equilibrium of bricks on canvas, the critique of and absurd complicity in obscene luxury in the caviar paintings – they cannot be reduced to these dichotomies.
While Herold is an artist of international importance, his German sensibility and experience of the country’s fractured past remain evident in the political and humorous undercurrents of his work. Further, his practice was influenced by his teacher Sigmar Polke and contemporaries like Joseph Beuys, Martin Kippenberger and Albert Oehlen, among others. His sculptures, or what he terms wall-based ‘drawings’ that use materials like wood, vodka bottles, buttons or baking powder, have also linked him to the Arte Povera movement, a connection destabilized by his use of caviar and lacquer. Indeed, some sculptures evoke an enlivened minimalism, while others recall Manet’s placid nudes. Thus, while Herold’s work broaches wide-reaching art historical and socio-cultural issues, it cannot be so easily summed up.
Herold could be called the last Dada artist. Language is a sculptural material in his practice as well, as the titles of his work extend or complicate the objects. Just as he plays with tension between materials, Herold engages with the incongruity between language and object, as if to suggest they can never really communicate the same thing. In reflecting on Herold’s retrospective at the Kunstmuseum Bonn last year, director Stephan Berg suggested that Herold’s practice is characterized by “a joy in widening the gap between what is shown, what is said, and what is meant to the point that everything almost collapses – but only almost.”
Georg Herold (b. 1947 Jenna, Germany) lives and works in Cologne. His recent solo exhibitions include Kunstmuseum Bonn (2017) and Museum Brandhorst, Munich (2012).