Art Criticism

Jörg Lozek: Im Zimmer

Jörg Lozek: Das Warten, Drei (Im Zimmer) (2008), in Im Zimmer (Daniel Templon, 2008).
Exhibition review published in ArtReview (London), no. 25, September 2008, p. 151.

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Im Zimmer (‘in the room’) is a collection of recent figurative paintings by German artist Jörg Lozek, one of the most promising figures of the New Leipzig School. These paintings, all from 2007-08, profoundly build upon and complete a series of works the artist initiated early in the decade. Depicting, in an impeccable, almost graphic style, a lone depersonalised male character in cluttered and confined interiors, the 13 paintings provoke in the viewer a shrinking sensation, as pictorial as it is metaphorical.

This effect comes in part from the wide-angle perspective the artist meticulously applies to his architectural constructions, vertiginously reducing the depth of the rooms. Side walls, floors and ceilings rush into the back walls, shutting down perspective and harshly confining the scenes. The decrepit state of the crumbling walls increases this effect of movement and contraction: even the wallpaper peels off in a scrolling, downward gesture. Clutter, neglect and desolation add to the claustrophobia: rooms are crammed with beds, tables, chairs, cabinets, accessories and ornaments. For example, in Das Warten, Drei (Im Zimmer) (‘waiting’, all works 2008), frames, clothes and hunting trophies hang on walls already overdecorated with densely ornate antique wallpaper. Each texture has been rendered with so much detail that the entire space seems airless. Even when there are windows, as in the back wall of Ort (‘place’), they are half obstructed by thick curtains or heavy veils, isolating the rooms and eliminating the horizon beyond. Everything seems devoted to the literal manifestation of an interior or interiority: a recess.

Completing the effect, the male inhabitant of these rooms is himself a means of pointing towards the manifestation of interiority – either because he consistently looks away from the viewers or because he is unconscious, asleep (Der Schlafende, ‘the sleeper’) or drunk (Wenn alles sich dreht, ‘when everything is spinning’). Huddling up on a bed or standing against a wall, his body suffers the same contradictions operating within the rooms. In the one position, he adumbrates a rotten disorder. In the other, he sustains the movement of the perspective as his gaze plunges towards the back wall or the floor. In any case, the character, as much as the rooms he inhabits, seems to be a pretext for the painter to give form to recess, to embody the feeling of confinement in all its nauseating and comforting complexity.

One might well interpret this in the light of East Germany’s recent history of deprivation, or just as easily observe that Lozek’s paintings are pictorially self-referential and escape any literal historical burden.

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