Michel Majerus

Michel Majerus Estate
Knaackstraße 12
April 28–March 3

Michel Majerus, 10 bears masturbating in 10 boxes, 1992, acrylic on cotton, 9 1/2 x 18'.

The title of this exhibition, “Laboratory for appraising the apparent”—the first of a three-part show at the artist’s former studio space—is appropriated from a quote Michel Majerus once wrote down in a notebook. The phrase simultaneously mirrors the credo of his early work from 1990 through 1995, presented here, and his estate’s mission of an archival reappraisal for the public. An arrangement of books taken from Majerus’s library is installed next to the entrance, appearing like an overview of the artist’s favored sources, including Vogue and Nintendo magazines, a publication on architect Kisho Kurokawa, and textbooks on typography. A distillation of these materials can be traced in the reproductions of thirteen of his small notebooks, neatly labeled with year and month, each containing a cryptic selection of his own aphorisms.

On a wall hangs a giant painting with cartoonish, baffled-looking bears sitting in Chio Chips or Kellogg’s boxes for 10 bears masturbating in 10 boxes, 1992. They are partly covered and outlined with tumultuous curvy strokes in red or blackened turquoise color fields. Slipshod, comic-style lettering underneath displays the title. Referencing Andy Warhol’s commercial phantoms and cribbing the gestural force of a Willem de Kooning not only epitomizes Majerus’s blunt jockeying for a position next to canonical figures and works, but furthermore evinces his obsession with the transformative potential of blending high and low images: an in-your-face remix of signs caught in constant flux.

Bringing to mind Wittgenstein’s reading of the duck-rabbit illusion in Philosophical Investigations (1953), the artist’s fragile surfaces conceal and reveal more than what is initially apparent, or as he scribbled in one of his notebooks: “As soon as someone has sussed out my logic + my system, it’s up to me to point this logic in a direction that contradicts itself so that it can’t become doctrine.”

Elisa R. Linn