Jana Gunstheimer said about her latest and ongoing series Erroneous Notions of Causal Relations it will become „an encyclopedic observation of mankind from afar”.
The first chapter is on view at CONRADS now with its numerous, predominantly small-format graphite drawings on a setting of wall paintings designed by the artist.
By way of an introduction to the exhibition, a multipart wall painting depicts scenes from an internal monologue in the mind of the Creator during the act of creation. The actual pictures have been blackened but the statements connected to them during individual moments can be read on the wall. Both the Book of Genesis (Chapters 2–5) and the Koran describe how Adam is made from clay and then infused with divine breath of life. The rest of the story is well known. The artist too modeled Adam but also Eve out of clay and used this little sculptures as models for several drawings appearing in the exhibition, harnessing it all in a monumental illustrated diptych.
Even though the “observations” start with Adam and Eve, they quickly lead to all manner of human incidence, experiences and facts which are illustrated masterfully in a series of pencil drawings – some of these are also based on clay sculptures reminding to old fashioned cartoons referring to the artist´s childhood in the GDR/Eastgermany. The artist has annotated the drawings on each sheet with a caption in German and English giving the respective motif a surprising, ironic twist.
Jana Gunstheimer has previously presented comprehensive conceptual series of critical nature – most recently her series Methods of Destruction, 2012/2013, which was shown at the Frankfurt Kunstverein, the Folkwang Museum in Essen and is part of the Guerlain Foundation Collection at the Pompidou in Paris today. With these new aperçu-like drawings the artist integrates the subversive power of laughter and the liberating effect of humor and wit. Indeed, this grants her a detached view ‘from afar’ – not least on the art system itself (see i.e.: Cubism and Alcohol, 2014).
Well aware that she is embarking on a balancing act of sorts, and in view of the fact that “the German culture has a quite neurotic relationship with humor” – as the author Daniel Kehlmann explicitly pointed out in a dialogue with his colleague Jonathan Franzen (cf. www.salon.com, interview dated 24 August 2014).
Great artists before Jan Gunstheimer, such as Sigmar Polke and Martin Kippenberger, made effort on the effect of wit, irony and humor because laughter is an elemental power placing art’s claim to truth and real life in a more fitting relationship.
The multi-talented author, filmmaker, photographer and performer, John Waters said in an interview on this subject in Rolling Stone in March 2014: “I think that all humor is political, but I’ve never climbed onto a soapbox and used my films as a platform to change opinions. You have to make people, laugh then you can also talk about issues.”