KAN IN CHEN 1, 2020
Acrylic on linen
40 x 30 inches (101.6 x 76.2 cm)
Under the auspices of painting, the German artist Michael Krebber has exhibited patterned wallpapers or textiles, muddied appropriations of webpages or art by Kate Middleton, chopped-up windsurfing boards, and scores of canvases bearing just a few tentative marks. His conceptual approach—developed through studies with Markus Lüpertz and an assistantship with Martin Kippenberger—endeared Krebber to the Cologne art scene of the 1980s and ’90s, alongside peers like Cosima von Bonin, Jutta Koether, and Josef Strau. Like them, Krebber animates European neo-avant-garde strategies, mounting an open-ended critique of art’s systems and processes through subtle visual cues. Yet his apparently diffident attitude—often likened to Baudelaire’s dandy or Melville’s Bartleby—renders Krebber unique. The slight gestures of his paintings illustrate what John Kelsey calls “an ongoing hesitation between repetition and interruption (or between having an idea and having no idea),” a manner of ultimately short-circuiting what the art world aims to transmit. Always in good humor, Krebber has in turn preoccupied art’s social imagination as a sort of trickster.
But if Krebber’s persona sometimes precedes him, his paintings reveal a dedication to craft and aesthetics, too, with their deft, even delicate, handling. “Could Krebber have predicted the possibility that his art could actually be touching?” asks Michael Sanchez. “That his joke-work, and the politeness of its delivery, can make one want to cry?” Krebber’s intellectual approach has long been laced with affect (he often speaks of his “embarrassment”), and his engagement with painting can be as focused on its persistence as its deconstruction (fitting, given his longtime post as professor of painting at Frankfurt’s acclaimed Städelschule). “We could say that Krebber is less a painter than a strategist,” Kelsey notes, “and that his strategy is to repeat and to stop painting in order to go to work on the wider system that makes painting what it is today, what it was yesterday, and what it might be or stop being tomorrow.” Dandy, painter, strategist: “The fact that I call myself an artist,” Krebber once said, “is enough.”
Michael Krebber (b. 1954, Cologne) lives and works in New York. Recent solo presentations include Fondazione Antonio Dalle Nogare, Bolzano (2021); Museum Brandhorst, Munich (2019); Greene Naftali, New York (2021, 2018, 2015); Kunsthalle Bern (2017); Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto (2016); Museum Ludwig, Cologne (2015); and CAPC Musée d’art Contemporain, Bordeaux (2012).
His work is in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; CAPC Musée d'art Contemporain, Bordeaux; Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum of Contemporary Art, Berlin; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; and Museum Brandhorst, Munich, among others. He was awarded the Wolfgang Hahn Prize by the Museum Ludwig, Cologne, in 2015.