Over the past decade and a half, New York-based German artist Josephine Meckseper has been crafting immersive environments that bend and subvert our perceptions of consumer culture. She chopped together car commercials to the beat of industrial noise track “Total War” for the 2008 short film 0% Down, re-produced ‘50s-era lingerie ads alongside spare mannequin legs and anti-war photos at MoMa that same year, and even constructed two full-scale oil rigs in the heart of Midtown Manhattan last year. Now, she’s presenting a new solo show that mines her own heritage, focusing on the way we read Nazi-destroyed modernist imagery.
“It took me until now to actually incorporate something this personal into the body of my work,” explained Meckseper from Chelsea’s Andrea Rosen Gallery last Friday. “But at a certain point, I had to reach a moment I could not get around—WWII and fascism is always a part of a German’s conscious. It’s something that you can’t really ever escape. And thinking about modernism—how it got destroyed [by fascism,] how it affected the personal lives of artists, how they ended up in this country, and how it shaped art history is something that I find infinitely fascinating.”
For Meckseper, this address of unavoidable history all began with use of an “unusual” expressionist sculpture from her hometown of Lilienthal, Germany—a piece that was built by local artists during a time before German history became something to “escape,” when “artists shaped the aesthetics of life.” Meckseper photographed the concrete structure and created a whole series of works—male underwear ad and steel, modernist-era form-filled vitrines, abstract expressionist paintings inlaid with photographs of “Aryan blond” women, and more—stemming from a celebration of the aesthetics of these artists and looking at the many implications of the damning years that followed.
“I wanted to find out the correlations between the modernist architectures of the time and this very unusual German expressionist sculptures,” said Meckseper. “But its really more about the political implications of art— what art actually meant then. And how, especially when you look at the paintings, abstraction was actually something really relevant at the time. It wasn’t just a form of exercise. It was fiercely political.”
Meckseper’s piece, likewise, are boldly, blatantly, and oftentimes very cleverly provocative.
“Josephine Meckseper” will be on view at Andrea Rosen Gallery through January 18, 2014.