Jousse Entreprise

Thomas Grünfeld

08 Nov - 13 Dec 2014

8 November – 13 December 2014

Text by Bettina Haiss

Thomas Grünfeld’s appreciation for objects is not merely formal but also relates to a specific functionality. Often using items of furniture as a starting point, he refers to conventional shapes and materials (related to homes and practices of interior design or decoration) and their corresponding usage, also implying the emotional and expressive (and representative) connotations found in a particular aesthetics or design. On a level of artistic appropriation and abstraction, he then recombines these characteristic properties whilst retaining a remote resemblance, a recollection of an original form, from which this new hybrid is derived. Grünfelds ambiguous sculptures constantly tease their beholder, questioning expectations and experiences, so that one is suspended in a state of imbalance between identification and alienation. In his deconstruction of familiar surroundings, Grünfeld follows a reductive approach, breaking down the inventory to simple basic forms and materials, which he cites and at the same time de- and recontextualizes.

With “Hau den Lukas”, high-striker or strongman game, Grünfeld commits himself to the unnatural pairing of a leather cushion and a round mirror in a slim wooden frame, connected by a metal bar, abstractly simulating the popular punching device found at fairs, yet replacing the characteristic parts of lever, tower and bell. The resulting simple form, containing the elemental components of a dressing table, has made way for more sophisticated / complex systems, bringing together as many as 3-4 pairings in a playful proliferation of elements, so that different heights and positions of the componentsa emerge. These variations recall a mix between wardrobe and sideboard where something can be deposited. At the same time the colorful cushions appear like positions on a board game, inviting to make a move. And it is just this inviting quality that Grünfeld expects his objects to bear, endowing them with seemingly practical features. The cushions are placed in such a manner that the act of kneeling and assuming a confessional stance is almost pressed upon us. Through physical sensations that are at times confining, the psychological dimension becomes imminent. Grünfeld is making reference to the stations of the cross and forms of reverence, which often demand a certain bodily stance and are witnessed by the watchful eye of a slanted mirror.

Grünfelds smooth, seamless collages don ́t reveal their disparate, heterogeneous nature at first glance, being instantly recognized as homogeneous objects of careful craftsmanship. Only at second glance one is striken by the fake, artificial nature of the hybrid forms, revealing a thwarted, „dumb“ design, which seems to offer real possibilities of practical use, only to reveal it ́s entirely unpractical purpose, it ́s dysfunctionality. So Grünfeld ́s art might be considered in terms of highly aesthetical misconstructions or failed designs.

This also applies to the two “misfits“ in the exhibition. The combinations of Canadian goose and penguin or calf and bulldog do not fit together in terms of zoological categories. Yet anatomically their body parts are carefully joined, producing an overall harmonious sculptural effect. These designed animals, though mismatched, inherently bear a natural grace and seem completely at ease with their grotesque appearance, their bodily pose expressing a quiet elegance. The monstrosity of these anatomically fitting, yet grossly contrasting combinations seeming quite normal, they prove to be simultaneously appealing and apalling, making it impossible not to react physically.

In presenting his “Eye Paintings“, Grünfeld is offering paintings in a far from classical sense. Artificial resin is spread on a wooden, egg-shaped board, producing an even, smooth and highly reflective layer. This monochromatic surface is interspersed with different animal eyes, crafted from glass in Lauscha.

The painting that is commonly the object of the beholder ́s gaze now just seems to return this glance like a mirror. The glossy surface, the shape and the animal ingredients are features far removed from conventional painting. Again, categories and their distinct features are unsettled, making way for an ambiguous new form.

Grünfeld ́s “Felts” also respond to conventional painting, replacing the classical medium of oil paint with cut-out felt pieces of contrasting colours, of which an image is composed. Grünfeld imposes a soft texture, associated with the cosiness of home, on the common notion of painting. For this exhibition, Grünfeld takes a further step and transforms the two-dimensional panel into a three-dimensional object. “Doggy”, a voluptuous female figure crawling on all fours, and “Belt Tree”, a simplified branch with suspended belts, are executed as Paravents, standing on the floor as partitioning elements. Here Grünfeld ́s felt interpretation of “painting” and “furniture” are combined and crossed over. Again, Grünfeld ́s abstractions from the “real thing” blur the distinctions between art and design, allowing a range of in-between states to prevail.

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