André Butzer came to international attention more than 15 years ago for his audaciously colored and thickly slathered paintings of cartoonish figures. In many of these works he drew from German and American politics, art history and Disney animations, incorporating seemingly familiar characters and, over time, embellishing well-known styles of painting. He increasingly focused on abstract painting and in 2010 started an ongoing series that explored the maximal potential of paintings through apparently reductive means. Consisting of single vertical and horizontal black bars emerging from what were initially gray backgrounds, Butzer made the works in a manner that recalled the controlled lines of geometric abstraction. Neither serial nor geometric however, his paintings contribute to a tradition of handmade, nuanced abstraction related to the more philosophical explorations of Mondrian. The latest works at Metro Pictures are a continuation of this concentrated exercise. Large and imposing, they have developed to include only vast fields of black with thin gaps of white on the right side of the canvas. The ostensible uniformity of the paintings underlines the variations between them. Seen together, gradations of color and brushstroke become visible, and a sense of motion and static in the pictures manifests. The intricate subtleties of these enigmatic paintings reveal the subjectivity of their making.
The works in this longstanding series are made following a methodology Butzer has named “NASAHEIM,” or more simply, “N.” He describes N as an incalculable artistic unit of measurement, a mythological and irrational numeral denoting all colors and life and death. It is a notion that incorporates philosophical ideas with science fiction, abutting an extroverted cultural language with intellectual interiority.
André Butzer was a founding member of Akademie Isotrop, an artist collective founded in Hamburg in 1996 that published zines and organized classes and exhibitions throughout Germany. In addition to the early zines published with Akademie Isotrop, Butzer has collaborated on the production of books for the majority of his exhibitions over the last 15 years. Many of these limited edition books are collected for the first time at the gallery. A new catalogue for his exhibition at Metro Pictures, published by Harpune Verlag, will be included in the presentation.
His work has been the subject of one-person exhibitions at Kestnergesellschaft, Hanover; Kunsthistorisches Museum – CAC Contemporary Art Club at Theseustempel, Vienna; Kunstverein Reutlingen, Germany; and Kunsthalle Nuremberg. It has also been presented in group exhibitions at institutions that include MOCA, Los Angeles; Sammlung Goetz, Munich; MUMOK, Vienna; Musée d’Art Contemporain de Nîmes, France; Museum der Moderne, Salzburg; Rubell Family Collection, Miami; and KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin.
Metro Pictures (press release)