Florian Meisenberg, Confessions of a Mask
16 September - 6 November, 2022
E.A. Shared Space, Tbilisi, Georgia
Confessions of a Mask derives its title from a 1949 novel of the same title by a Japanese author Yukio Mishima. Set in a heavy patriarchal society during the ultra-right wing militarist moment in Japan, the novel narrated through a lens of a young homosexual man, raises questions around the subject of the ability of love in the times when love is heavily controlled, manipulated and in the end excluded. When and if love at all is possible in a society which struggles to recognize one-another as equal, valid and true. Fascinated by the idea of a ‘false personality’ and ‘a reluctant masquerade’ critically addressed by the author in the novel, Meisenberg continues his research into binaries, such as, actual and virtual, graciously pointing at the beliefs of true and false in the exhibition’s cross-media dialogue, where the line between painting and sculpture is blurred.
The exhibition gathers Meisenberg’s recent body of work, most of which has been created in situ throughout the summer of 2022, as well as a selection of his video work dating back to 2011. Apart from a painful subject matter which resonates with Georgia’s past few decades of lgbtq+ and sexual liberation struggle, the exhibition raises various questions around painting itself.
Walking into the gallery, the viewer is confronted with a painting, Bodies in regression (Max Mathews), 2022, blocking the door to the front entrance of the exhibition space. Directed to enter the exhibition space through another door on the left-hand side and following the architecture of the space, the viewer ends up in the final room, situated at the back of the work. Hanging on the front door’s glass window, the viewer now is able to see through the painting. This way, Bodies in regression (Max Mathews), 2022 becomes an anchor and a compass for navigating the space but also a tutorial for a reenactment of the title of the show. By masking the door, its insight is unveiled only after experiencing the show as a whole, culminating in an installation of three works of moving image. It’s as if the exhibition itself is structured around the idea of a mask (or painting) and what it covers, whereas the casual documentary style footage twists into a dramatic, at times hard to face reality, unmasking its chore.
Alongside the abstract and figurative painting, throughout the exhibition various flowers, fruits and vegetables collected in markets over the past few months in Tbilisi, dry and shrink inside the nets of black PLA filament. The feeling of a shrinking heart, aging bodies and mortality is delicately addressed through the presented sculptures.
What are we looking at when looking at the sculptures? Based on a wire-frame modeling technique, the sculptures resemble original shapes and sizes of the objects they encompass, standing as ghosts, firmly occupying the space once belonging to them, a memorial of their initial, original shapes. The black nets are drawn in space using a 3D filament pen, thus extending borders of painting and sculpture, simultaneously addressing questions of time and space.
Apart from a recurring subject of love, real and fake, actual and virtual, life and death and life and its simulation, Meisenberg’s exhibition raises a question of how, if at all, can a painting be time-based? Working on time-based media over the course of his career, Meisenberg’s relationship with time changes from one media to another.
Confessions of a Mask once again asks for our attention to time, there in front of us progressing as in the bodies in regression.
Florian Meisenberg (b. 1980) studied Art at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf with Peter Doig and has participated in exhibitions in numerous institutions: Simone Subal Gallery, New York; Kate Mac-Garry, London; Wentrup Gallery, Berlin; Avlskarl, Copenhagen; Mendes Wood, Sao Paulo; Francois Ghebaly, Los Angeles; Kölnischer Kunstverein-, Cologne; Kasseler Kunstverein, Kassel; ICA Philadelphia; Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt; Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Oslo; Bundeskunsthalle Bonn; Kunstpalais, Erlangen; Deichtorhallen, Hamburg; Queens Museum of Art, New York; Boros Collection, Berlin; Zabludowicz Collection, London; Kunstparterre, Munich). He lives and works in NY.