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Linear Affairs:
Deutsche Bank New York introduces its latest acquisitions

Presenting new acquisitions is often a mere formality. Yet hiding behind the simple title “Recent Acquisitions” is an exhibition that shows how a young generation of artists uses the medium of paper to explore cultural identity and traditional art disciplines. Oliver Koerner von Gustorf on the show at the Lobby Gallery of Deutsche Bank New York.

Olav Westphalen, Ohne Titel (Snowmen), 2005,
Deutsche Bank Collection, © Galerie Michael Neff, FFM

Ready, set, go: Iron Chef is the name of a popular American TV show in which two teams of cooks compete for 45 minutes to see who can create the most opulent menu out of ingredients they have brought themselves. And if gourmets can pull it off in such a short time, then artists should be able to do it too, don’t you think? At least that’s what the makers of Iron Artist thought this past June when they invited teams of artists to the sculpture garden at P.S.1 in New York to perform before a professional jury in a spectacular event where contestants produce art works in a race against the clock. The absurd competition in "real-time art production" attracted more than 1,200 visitors, who cheered on the opponents. The artist who won the most points was Olav Westphalen , a German living in New York who appeared with his co-competitors in a silver boxer’s outfit and within minutes carved a gigantic and elegant snowman out of Styrofoam, which was then turned upside down in an improvised wooden frame.

Olav Westphalens Styropor-Schneemann
beim Iron-Artist-Event,
Courtesy Cabinet Magazine

The art world is completely nuts about entertainment right now, as Westphalen remarked after his victory; he wanted to address this idea in both a humorous and provocative way – particularly because art usually pales in comparison with "real" entertainment. Westphalen’s sculpture reminded the enthusiastic reporter from the art magazine Cabinet of a film scene from Dumb and Dumber in which Jim Carey used carrots and coal to fashion not a snowman’s face, but his genitals. Despite his humor, Westphalen is interested in the irritation that arises out of a dislocation of visually and culturally loaded signs. This is also evident in a silkscreen from his Snowman series, which can currently be seen at the Lobby Gallery of Deutsche Bank New York. Westphalen’s paper works explore a wide variety of images such as tourist snapshots, Internet reports, articles, ads, and caricatures. The cartoon, which is exhibited in Recent Acquisitions, shows two snowmen talking, but apparently not communicating with one another. While the one mistakes the other’s turban for a big bandage, and the red cross in his text balloon signalizes an offer to help, the half-moon symbol of Islam forms the prompt retort in the text balloon of the other. Westphalen’s works operate with a disarming wit; they question cultural, religious, and social patterns, and – in an era when battles are being fought over newspaper caricatures and headscarves – they touch upon the prickly question of the power of an image.

Carlos Amorales, Archive Hybrid XXVIII, 2006,
Deutsche Bank Collection, © Carlos Amorales

"Drawing is taking over pop culture," the artist stated in 2003 in Artforum. "The majority of new TV comedies are cartoons, and Hollywood is producing animated features for adults left and right. These examples are proof not only of drawing’s beauty, but of its singular ability to approximate how the mind creates reality: through perception and conception, which – like drawing – are linear affairs."

With its ten different positions, Recent Acquisitions embarks on a trip through global pop culture and, at the same time, shows how ambivalent artists’ reactions can be to the visual codes and mass media images Westphalen diagnoses as being "streamlined." The medium of paper forms the show’s center of attention.

Carlos Amorales, Archive Hybrid XXI, 2006,
Deutsche Bank Collection, © Carlos Amorales

In contrast to Westphalen’s ironic approach, Carlos Amorales’ way of working with graphic codes appears almost martial. His 2005 series Hybrid, also shown in Recent Acquisitions, was originally made for the exhibition An Image Bank for Everyday Revolutionary Life shown at the REDCAT in Los Angeles. Together with 16 other artists, he was invited to select individual works from the archive of the Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974), which comprises 11,000 photographs, and to use them to create new works. Among the pictures Siquerios collected as image material for his murals, Amorales chose images of Gothic madonnas, Communist parades, and camels in the desert, which he transformed into historical backdrops punctuated by abstract negative forms. These motifs from various eras and cultures seem as though they’d been skillfully destroyed with a razor blade and translated into a modern rock aesthetic. Amorales’ historical reflections look as graphic as a record cover – and this makes perfect sense, considering that he was co-founder of the artists’ project and alternative band label Nuevos Ricos. His works pick up on elements of Mexican folk art and pop culture and often cross boundaries between performance, installation, political action, and public event.

The artist, who lives and works in Amsterdam and Mexico, is one of the stars on the young scene; his work has already been shown at the biennials in Venice and Berlin.

Marco Arce, Tigre con sol, 2006,
Deutsche Bank Collection

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