Gert & Uwe Tobias: der osten im norden des westens
Team Gallery, May 8 – June 14, 2008
A few months after their much-discussed exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, Gert and Uwe Tobias now make their New York commercial gallery solo debut. As odd as it might seem that these collaborating twins found their entry into the local art scene via one of its most prominent institutions, it fits with the overall mystique of their work.
Seemingly coming out of nowhere while referencing everything along the way, the Tobiases’ work is a unique mélange of Russian constructivism, symbolism, Bauhaus, folklore, figuration and romanticism, which is cooked together with a solid dose of humor and an aesthetic that is much informed by contemporary graphic design. The Tobiases comment on this visual anarchy in the title of their show, which summons the romance of a weathervane: “the east in the north of the west.” It is a locating description, at once all-inclusive and distinct, functioning as a general homage to the freedom found in art and the artists’ revolt against stigmatization. It can be further understood as the artists’ nod to their own travels, leading them from Eastern Europe, where they were born in Kronstadt, Romania, in 1973, to Cologne, Germany, where they currently reside, and into the future, to wherever their globe-spanning career might take them.
Considering the amount of processed information and experience in the Tobiases’ oeuvre, it must be a great advantage to work as a close-knit duo, with each other’s constant constructive and editorial input, fact-checking and reminiscing. It is a microscopic view of humanity’s collective consciousness, so to speak, which, in the Tobiases’ case, weaves various loose strings into works whose content is as eclectic as their form. While the Tobiases also have worked extensively with sculpture and installation, this exhibition features large woodcuts and wall paintings and smaller drawings, some of which include collage and some that were made with a typewriter. There is a sense of whimsy in this installation, where a playful character can suddenly emerge from fields of abstraction like an octopus surfacing from the depths of the ocean.
However dense the information, the Tobiases prefer installations that stress structural clarity. Works are neatly framed, hung at unusual heights, like jumpy notations on a piece of sheet music, and entire walls are often compartmentalized with the help of solid colors. In this exhibition, as was the case at MoMA, there is an intriguing rhythm to the madness. At the end of the day, the Tobiases will make sure that nothing will be predictable or, worse, look arbitrary.