Behind the Mirror
New York, 459 West 19th Street
Although Peter Dreher is widely known for his Tag um Tag guter Tag (Day by Day good Day) series which includes thousands of realistic paintings of a water glass, the German artist nevertheless approached other objects with equal, if not higher, degree of obsessiveness. Skulls in his latest Koenig & Clinton exhibition Behind the Mirror prevail the show in various colors, forms, and mediums. Looking back at the last seven decades of his career, works on paper and paintings solely depict skulls, yet approach the subject matter from different perspectives dictated by the era’s artistic trends and the artist’s own personal interests at the time.
While the skull motif was an important detail for the 16th century Northern European painting—Holbein and his The Ambassadors painting, per se—the use of this motif did not have its renaissance until Damien Hirst’s diamond studded skull sculpture from 2007. For Dreher, the skull motif not only represents symbolic notions such as mortality, demise, and transcendence, but also offers a compelling material to illustrate. Therefore, his changing approach to the subject matter can be traced from his early painterly gestures to experiments in anatomical form to Xerox looking details and steel color tones later in the 2000s. Dreher’s exhibition will also conclude Koenig & Clinton’s Chelsea presence as the gallery moves to a Bushwhick location in June.
“I’m working with reality. My idea was only to paint something in the way painters did 35,000 years ago, say they painted elephants. Then, when the work was finished, it was forgotten. They had to do the painting again and again and again. So it was one, then five, then a thousand. But the idea was not a series. The idea was just a lifetime, doing something in your lifetime, doing it with concentration, and showing that it’s not necessary to change the reason, the motive,” said the artist to Lynne Tillman in an interview on BOMB Magazine about the notion of seriality in his paintings.
The exhibition runs through May 20, 2017.