The Brooklyn Rail

MAR 2012

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MAR 2012 Issue

UNTITLED FRIEZE FAIR 2007 Installation by Gert and Uwe Tobias

On View
Team Gallery’s Private Viewing Room
January 12 – March 3, 2012
Wooster Street Location, New York

To coincide with the inclusion of the artists’ work in MoMA’s current “Print/Out” exhibition, the typed, printed, molded, and designed room-sized installation by Romanian identical twins Gert and Uwe Tobias (originally shown at Frieze Fair in 2007), has been reinstalled at Team Gallery’s Wooster Street location. The work pairs motifs from shuffleboard with the aesthetics of Russian Constructivism while suggesting as its subject several variations of a creation story. The progressive structure of the piece alludes to the process of artistic creation. Imagery used by the artists draws from folk tales and nature as if remembered from “the old country” by emigrants starting a new life. The twins’ reference to nautical travel also brings to mind the story of Noah’s ark, where doubles of different species are offered the chance to begin life anew.

Gert & Uwe Tobias, Untitled installation, 2007/2012. Mixed media. Overall installation: 213 x 300”. Courtesy of Team Gallery, New York.

In the beginning of the Tobias’ creative process they sketch preliminary drawings using a typewriter threaded with a split black and red ribbon. The near-extinct technology employed by the artists is a reminder of 19th Century awakenings to the marriage of man and machine—a world where thoughts and words were incrementally pressed directly onto the paper’s surface. The drawings conjure the soothing sound of a steady stream of taps and carriage returns evoking a mental state of focused productivity. Their careful algebraic rhythms, alternating with expressionistic QWERTY keyboard variations, produce emoticons and secret password-like strings of numbers and letters. The resulting 14 separate letter-sized pages are placed above or below a black painted wainscot demarcation line. Edged in narrow black frames, images of sailboats, plants, animals, and jester-like puppet heads form a semaphore on three walls.

A quartet of collages framed on one of two hunter green painted rectangular panels signals the embarkment of the project’s more specific expressive direction. Here, the artists’ spooky, nocturnal imagery of souls leaving and entering the material world is developed a step further in color. Nearby, three ghoulish ceramic trophy figurines are mounted on an adjacent wall’s monumental green chevron, one element of the installation’s overarching shuffleboard iconography. A second matching chevron crosses the floor and climbs up the opposite wall. Anchored there is one of three full-sized, framed woodblock prints.

From all their typewritten, collaged, and ceramic musings, the Tobias brothers culled two images into large, color woodblock prints on paper. One is a whirring landscape in which geometrical clock face flowers bloom, revealing seeds beneath the soil. The other features a grinning, slightly deranged, and fertile female figure with Pippi Longstocking pigtails and spiraling, circular eyes. As with the typed drawings, the artists employ old-world technology for their prints. Matte-textured, off-registration colors are layered, allowing the wood plate edges to build an overall grid behind the narrative imagery. At close range, cool and warm color-wheel opposites mingle melodically through mottled ink passes. As the centerpieces for the installation, these two prints (and a third that doubles as a poster for the installation—a practice the artists have employed for every solo show) are presented as the crowning culmination of the artists’ expression.

Mounted away from the wall on a post-like mast, the frame of the print with a round-bellied woman is topped by a wooden ship’s sails. It and the entire enterprise have triumphantly set forth to be enjoyed while sitting on deck at a game-piece black wooden table with chairs in the center of the room. And yet the entire installation is presented to the world behind a dog leash chain in Team’s private gallery. (The installation isn’t officially open to the public, according to the gallery staff.) Its re-installation at Team suggests a closeted labor of love. Being closed to the public reinforces the work’s aura of a secret twin language—one that is secure without an audience and does not need the outside world.


The Brooklyn Rail

MAR 2012

All Issues