Nino Mier Gallery is pleased to present VOTE!, a competition oriented exhibition featuring painters Jana Schröder and Andreas Breunig. The presentation serves as a reprise of a recent exhibition of the same name at Kunsterverein Heppenheim which featured both Schröder and Breunig. Like the exhibition at Kunstverein, our exhibition follows a process in which only one piece by each artist is exhibited in the booth at a time, placed purposefully in juxtapositional opposition, thus inciting competition. Augmenting this spatial competition is a ballot box placed at the center of the booth in which visitors cast a vote for the better painting. Although this exhibition draws inspiration from the one held at Kunstverein Heppenheim, the essential premise of such a competition originates from both artists’ time at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. In an exercise derived during University, students would submit works to participate in the same sort of duel: installed facing one another, the work itself vied for the votes of the students and the status as the better piece of art.
Every week the loser’s work was exchanged with a new artist’s work, and the winner stayed up until ‘knocked out’ or until an overall victor was declared at the end of the year. Of course, as all things, the competition did not exist in a pure, impartial vacuum and politics and corruption took hold. While at the school, Breunig lost the final competition to Dominik Halmer - because he faked the election. Continuing in this vein of irony, Schröder and Breunig decorated the Kunsterverein Heppenheim building with polemic, propaganda posters advertising not their work, but themselves. Breunig’s poster is a portrait of himself through a thin veil of foliage, a piece of fruit held up to his lips, and finished with the phrase, “geschmack ist nicht verhandelbar.” Nino Mier Gallery’s VOTE! exhibition engages with this humor through pasting these posters around the fairgrounds and the city of Miami.
So, why would Schröder and Breunig promote such a rivalry?
First, there is the fact that the two artists are married and of the opposite sex. It’s natural to want to compare the two halves of a couple – especially with the same vocation. Inevitably we discuss the couples’ equivalency and disparity whether based on personality traits, physical appearance, career success, intellectual prowess or even as a battle of the sexes. Second, the two artists ascended from the same generation of painters; both studied at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, and both pursued gestural abstract painting.
Despite their binary relationship and their similarities, Breunig and Schröder’s art differs a great deal.Schröder paints mostly abstractions with a limited palette: wide swaths of chartreuse adorned with focused, thin scribbles, or heavy blue and black marks floating on a clean, white space.Breunig’s color palette and handling of paint is much broader, variegated and gesturally open. Breunig’s color palette and handling of oil paint is much heavier, broader, variegated and gesturally open, with large expressive shimmering marks of rich reds and vibrant greens, heavy, lush impasto and layers of purples and oranges with far-reaching loops and cross-bodied sweeps.
They do not work in collaboration. However, given their shared visual language, it is tempting to compare their art directly and ask: who is the better painter? Knowingly, this question often draws attention away from the work’s essence but draws attention to the flawed nature of public art criticism and the faceted elements that articulate into trends in taste and market fluctuations. The artists engage with this issue with irony and humor, yet the end result is to encourage the visitors at Untitled to make time for true contemplation.
Viewers should agree on the premise that each work of art is at least in part perfect, while each critic is at least in part imperfect. We may then look to each work of art not for its faults and shortcomings, but for its moments of exhilaration, in an effort to bring our own imperfections into sympathetic vibration, instigating a creative change in ourselves. These moments of perfection will certainly be subjective, and if we don’t see one immediately, we will, out of respect for the competition, look harder. Certainly, each artwork contains one mark of genius, ven if by accident. We should look at the totality of the work in the light of this moment – whether it be a moment of humor or sadness, an overarching structural element, a mood, apersonal association, a distraction, an honest error or anything that speaks to us.
With VOTE!, Schröder and Breunig come to exactly this conclusion: it’s a matter of taste. It is important that partisanship is avoided and judgement is based on the essential features of the works, such as methodology, message and size, but it is unrealistic not to assume human bias,conscious or not, to take part. Nobody is uninvolved, no element uninfluential and the results have real consequences. The decision is up to those who express their opinion at the ballot box. Visitors can no longer be just art lovers, but suddenly have the power to hold the future of two artists in their hands. VOTE!