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Markus Linnenbrink @ Sweetow

Theredlovethatmademe, 2009, epoxy resin and pigment on wood, 48 x 72" 

Marcel Duchamp once famously predicted that “retinal art” would vanish, and that ideas, stripped of sensuality, would someday rule.  His prognostication certainly came true in conceptual art. But for rest of the world, including that of the German-born, Brooklyn-based artist Markus Linnenbrink, the notion doesn’t hold sway. For Linnenbrink, color isn’t just a means; it’s a riotous end that will likely transfix anyone whose taste runs toward finish fetish and abstraction.  For out-and-out material inventiveness, I can’t think of a show I’ve seen in the past year that I have enjoyed as much as this.  

Everywhereallthetimeeverything, 2009, Epoxy resin and pigment, 20 x 84 x 36"
Whether he’s creating sculpture, making paintings from epoxy resin, or painting the walls of buildings with his now-familiar rivulet-laced stripes, Linnenbrink is all about surface and sensuality, and more pointedly, about how our visceral reactions to the tactile properties of paint can be brought up short by the very artificiality of the industrial materials he employs.  While his strongest works explode with circular forms, they’re not really compositions in the conventional sense; they’re by-products of a kind of visual archeology: an exploratory process in which the artist is both creator and excavator.
In his paintings, Linnebrink pours multiple layers of pigment-laced epoxy resin onto panels. When the liquid hardens, he drills into the surfaces, leaving crater-shaped forms defined by multi-colored semi-circles whose textures and hues resemble marbles – the kind that were once common on playgrounds. While the process by which he creates these works is transparent –you can see every layer right down to the wood supports — you still feel as if you’re on the receiving end of a great illusionist trick. The impulse is to touch. What you discover is a kind of inverted bas relief: craters whose colors are determined are almost entirely by chance. 
These forms, which Linnenbrink strings together in dense clusters, recall star maps or super-heated molecules, but in the end, bear no relationship of any kind to scientific inquiry. For this artist, the pleasures of obsession and repetition seem to be sufficient reward. They illustrate perfectly Frank Stella’s what-you-see-is-what-you get dictum as well as Kenneth Noland’s (1294-2010) idea, that composition should be subservient to color.  
Nobodywinswhofightsalone, 2009, epoxy resin and pigment on wood, 48 x 84"

In Nobodywhowinsfightalone, one of the most arresting pieces on view, hues that appear saturated up-close turn iridescent when viewed from across a room, like an anamorphic object that can only be seen from one angle. While the tonality of these works varies from pale to searing, our physical engagement with them remains constant. Throughout, the artist sidesteps logic, hierarchy or any sort of ordering when it comes to composition.  Thus, viewers are challenged to create their own coherence, which is sometimes easy, sometimes hard, depending on which portion of Linnenbrink’s oeuvre you’re looking at. 

Bushwicksuperinnuithothouse, 2008, epoxy resin and pigment, 15 x 14 x 11"

A stripe painting like Blanquitos, which consists of wavy vertical lines ending in frozen drips, recalls the experience of trying to identify passengers in a limousine. The picture’s glossy, glitter-speckled colors seduce, but its reflective surface reveals only the faintest glimmer of the shadow-forms that lie below. It’s an optical treadmill. 

By contrast, when you look at Linnenbrink’s floor-mounted sculptures it’s almost impossible not to feel a childlike joy. These objects appear in two forms: multi-colored cubes with human-like orifices and bulges and embedded objects (coins, earrings, bottle caps, paint brushes, telephone cords and other detritus); and “islands” made of candy-cane colors that feel as if they were squeezed from a tube.  Both read as man-made geological events that exert the force of actual phenomena.
“This offer” of sensuousness and intellect “is inherent in my work,” explains the artist. “I try to create a space in which perception is experienced and in which it is possible to reflect on perception. Invigorating this process in a very sensuous way is for me an incentive and motivation to preoccupy myself to such an extent with color. I’m interested in the viewer’s joyful encounter with himself.”
Duchamp might question Linnenbrink’s fixation on sensory stimulus, but you’ll get no complaints from me.  These works are arrow shots that hit the brain directly through the retina.
Markus Linnenbrink @ Patricia Sweetow through Jan. 30, 2010.
[Editor’s note: This review is of an abbreviated version of Linnenbrink’s show everythingeverywhereallthetime, which opened in Nov. 2009 and was extended within a group show of gallery artists, Winter Solstice.   Artists include: Gale Antokal, Bernhard Haetter, David Huffman, Kim Anno, Peter Tollen, Jina Valentine and Cornelia Schultz.]


3 Responses to “Markus Linnenbrink @ Sweetow”

  1. Thanks for a well-written review of this exhibition.

  2. DeWitt Cheng says:

    Head shots, and not the actorly kind! Will scoot on down to Sweetow at first (or second) opportunity!


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