Paul Pretzer Exhibition

Marc Straus

poster for Paul Pretzer Exhibition

This event has ended.

MARC STRAUS presents the third one-person show by Berlin-based painter Paul Pretzer, featuring new paintings created here during his three-month New York residency.

After having been exhibited at numerous international venues over the last decade, Paul Pretzer’s paintings have become distinctive for their tragicomedy – viewers are left teetering between amusement and unease. In this new body of work, Pretzer introduces new fantastical characters staged in odd new situations. His once populous compositions are now boldly pared down to their essentials. Gone are the detailed environments, instead swirls of painterly masses occupy the surface. When isolated against these abstract landscapes, Pretzer’s protagonists yield an even greater intensity.

Sad donkeys wail into the void, a goofy horse donning a heroic cape pounces into action against a large field of wild pinks and reds. A stoic cat smokes a cigarette while the grinder churns out mysterious meat. Like fairy tales, these characters become an accessible lens for the inquiry of human behavior. They are almost all flawed or even outright dismal. As Umberto Eco has observed: “the pleasures of erudition are reserved for losers…”

Pretzer’s surrealistic works always had a tension between narrative subject matter and formal compositional concerns. Single objects possess the gravitas to bind entire planes of abstraction, like lonely ships amidst Turner’s turbulent seas. His attention to color, line and shape become more evident. There is a lingering feeling of the familiar – Pretzer assembles images from the rich history of art in his compositions to solve formal problems. If the equids are borrowed from Picasso and Cattelan, then the expressionistic passages of color pay fealty to Guston. Replacing decorative patterns or mountainous terrains, the colorful backgrounds are made up of vibrant and vivid brushwork. In some works monochromatic bands span the bottom, alluding to Newman’s zips. These serve as optical respites before the eye jumps back into the fields of action.

The deceptively uncomplicated paintings are in fact culminations of trained technical methods. A skilled draughtsman with an experienced painterly hand, he easily convinces us of the impossible – logic collapses in the narratives, beckoning various interpretations. His narratives possess the enigmatic quality to elicit empathy for its painted characters.

Pretzer moved to Berlin after his formative years in Dresden. For this series he worked on the Lower Eastside of New York in a building that for almost two centuries had been a stopping point for poor immigrants. For these immigrants, humor was the necessary ingredient to survival and advancement. Perhaps these work experiences underlies the fact that a traditionally trained European painter can converse with the antecedents of American Expressionism, and successfully assimilate the context of the dialogue, often with a joke thrown in. It is a testament to the never-ending surprise of painting, and Paul Pretzer in that respect, is eloquently versed.

Paul Pretzer (b. 1981) completed his MFA in 2007 at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Dresden, Germany. He has exhibited in numberous international venues, including solo shows in Basel, Berlin, Düsseldorf, and New York. His work is in numerous private and public collections such as Städtische Galerie, Dresden, Stadtgalerie Kiel, The Rubell Family Collection and the Sør Rusche Collection. Paul Pretzer is represented by MARC STRAUS Gallery, New York.



from January 10, 2016 to February 14, 2016

Opening Reception on 2016-01-10 from 16:00


Paul Pretzer

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