"Reduce to max" is currently a buzzword in the advertising industry. It's all about allusive, telling visuals backing a message that comes across loud and clear. The technique often uses stylistic devices of exaggeration and highlighting, but maxim number one is always "reduce to max" – concentrate on the bare essentials. This exhibition's pragmatic title "reduce to max" is a literal allusion to reduction of size, to concentration and to compression of image content into the smallest possible format.

Curated by Römerapotheke Gallery, this year's exhibition focuses on eleven items of figurative miniature painting and pocket-size drawings. Small-format painting has a long history in art. Finely crafted folio miniatures reached their apogee in both Persian and western culture. Miniature portraits were highly popular from the 16th century: only the advent of photography brought about their gradual demise. Small scale holds an obvious fascination. It is a reflection of the cosmos in micro-format, something precious as a portable, pocket-sized piece of the world.

Works of the Gallery's three artists Marcel Gähler, Jana Gunst-heimer and Judit Villiger are all present. Furthermore, we have invited 8 artists (Jenny Brillhart, Rebekka Brunke, Eva Grün, Rubén Méndez, Vera Ida Müller, Nathan Ritterpusch, Sigga Bjorg Sigurdardottir and Christian Weihrauch) to contribute works for "reduce to max".


Jenny Brillhart (USA, 1972)

Jenny Brillhart paints amusing interiors in such exact detail that, at first glance, they look like photographs. She builds in tiny, ironic 'flaws' as pointers to the true quality of fine art. So minutely are her painted surfaces crafted that the sun seems to dance hip-hop on them. After all, she need only open her front door in Miami Beach to find her motifs. Amid the palm trees stand rows of down-at-heel, typically American hotels, strung like pearls on a necklace. Jenny has adopted one of these concrete dinosaurs, the Saxony. Hers is the flat mid-season between the peak of summer and total desertion, in which they are no longer houses, but characterless, empty boxes on the beautiful white sand. She paints natura morte in warm sunlight. It's a well-known fact that painting is booming, but interiors are a classical subject only recently rediscovered by the Leipzig School's rising star, Matthias Weischer. You might describe Brillhart as the American answer to Weischer's melancholy living rooms. Hers are always bathed in sunshine, and the guests are sure to be back next spring...

Jenny Brillhart's agent is Berlin-based Galerie Kuckei&Kuckei.


Rebekka Brunke (Germany, 1970)

Artist Rebekka Brunke's pictures (oil on canvas) reflect the impressions of a traveller looking out of a moving window into territory unknown. Her motifs are fleeting, unspectacular. She paints landscapes which pass travellers by as they move from A to B. But each of these seemingly unremarkable pictures contains that spark of life which illuminates the crossover from reality to art. "This painting is restrained, both in colouring and style. Grey tones predominate, with dashes of green, blue and gentle pink. Thus they recreate a distant memory which first has to be retrieved from oblivion" (Notes on the Work of Rebekka Brunke by Martin Stather – Kunstverein, Mannheim). She adds to her range with paintings of aerograms, postcards, stamps and drawings: souvenirs, as it were, of the journey. The fine lines of her plotter drawings, executed on the wall itself, support her leading ideas. Diagrammatic sketches, which emerge and vanish, take up her theme of 'en route'.

Rebekka Brunke has won the 2007 Heinrich Vetter Art Prize 2007.

Her agent is Galerie Schuster, of Frankfurt and Berlin.


Marcel Gähler (Switzerland, 1969)

When Marcel Gähler’s camera flashes in the darkness of night, his photograph captures a world asleep. His are views of familiar but forgotten places, often in rain or snow. It might be an allotment with shrivelled, overgrown vegetable foliage, a trace of last summer amid remains of an improvised greenhouse, the front wall of a house behind a garden shrub, or a tree-top pointing skywards. Gähler's spectacularly detailed miniature (just 6 x 9 cm!) pencil drawings are based on these photographs. The real content of the photograph is highlighted by this transposition. What a superficial glance might previously have missed now emerges, subtly reinforced, in his pictures. These are images which lie at the interface between casual snapshot and meaningful allusion. Thus they create a motif-like state of suspense, open to free interpretation. They recall lost memories, summon up dream sequences. The ongoing daily loss of universe comes into view, captured on paper.


Eva Grün (Austria, 1975)

Eva Grün’s collages and drawings evoke the language and aesthetics of merchandise and imagery. Her pictures are distinguished by sketch-like, figurative and painted elements. In her tusche drawings, she uses apparently worthless materials such as cardboard, toilet paper and newspapers – things that surround us always and everywhere. Her mode of painting, including experimentation with various techniques, deliberately invites randomness. This composition of banal objects is both an artistic playground and a program:
the juxtaposition of representational tusche drawings with cut-outs from newspaper headlines suddenly produces something like immanent meaning.

Eva Grün's agents are the art galleries Schuster, of Frankfurt and Berlin, and Römerapotheke, of Zurich.


Jana Gunstheimer (Germany, 1974)

German-born Jana Gunstheimer analyses the state of society from the twin viewpoints of artist and ethnologist. She engages with unemployment, the growing resort to violence, substitute rituals and a cheapening of all areas of life. In line with her description of the status quo, she paints small-size, black-and-white watercolours from photographs, centring on "Nova Porta," a fictitious organization. In this surreal world, where fiction and reality constantly blend, Jana plays out different scenarii of supervision and control, of life coaching and pointless job creation programs.

"Reduce to max" will display the second edition of her "Massnahme" at Galerie Römerapotheke. Massnahme is a kind of newspaper for members of Nova Porta. Eight editions are planned, with a two-year time limit matching the Employment Agency's job creation and return-to-work programs. Each edition of Massnahme includes a feedback section – voluntary or compulsory, depending on Nova Porta membership status. The aim of Massnahme no. 1 was "to minimize personal weaknesses and empower the individual."  Now Massnahme no. 2 is a special edition on the working group "About F." with the title "F. was left behind in this house – one life typifying many."

Further current exhibitions featuring works by Jana Gunstheimer are: Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Compilations III, opening April 20, 2007 and Art Institute of Chicago, a solo exhibition opening June 7, 2007.


Rubén Méndez (Mexico, 1960)

Mexican painter Rubén Méndez recreates and explores the cheap 'n' cheerful background aesthetics of the products, adverts and fashions of the 1950s and 60s. Typography, city maps, objects and figures combine in a perverse logic beyond perspective. The layout of this imagery certainly has narrative traits, but Méndez does not force his viewers into a hard-and- fast story. Rather, he leaves them to create their own story lines by free association. In this artist's opinion, the discipline of the miniature emphasizes the gap between artwork and viewer, dictated by respect if not awe. We may reasonably infer that the work of art thus becomes something precious and personal.

Rubén Méndez' agent is Charro Negro Galería in Zapopan, Mexico.


Vera Ida Müller (Switzerland, 1979)

Photographs stuck into family albums are part and parcel of our culture. Vera Ida Müller paints from the quiet, unremarkable memory bank of photography. This artist has eliminated the contours from her pictures. They seem to fade, disintegrating into a loss of clarity which reflects a reality now existing only in the mind. She has no interest in portraying reality, but seeks to present the inner image by her own process of re-member-ing. Her reworking of photography into painting is a slow process – a long haul might be a better term - into the heart of the image. But that process is all that makes her atmospheric charge possible. Fragmented, diffuse and introverted, Vera's work conveys precisely what it does not show. When there is almost nothing left to see, you see nearly everything. The vanishing image is itself her theme, her screen on to which she projects experience. The pictures we see are stiff, still and empty, leaving us, the viewers, to read into them what we will. In her paintings created, as it were, off the cuff, we inevitably recognize fragments of our images of our own past. They conjure up our memories of past life, like some strange, telling detail of a dream or the ungraspable importance of a deep-rooted image of childhood.  Her impasto colouring is reminiscent of scraps of memory. (From a text by Dorothee Messmer).


Nathan Ritterpusch (USA, 1976)

The images in Nathan Ritterpusch's Old Enough To Be My Mother series of paintings are based on photos found in men's magazines of the '50s and '60s that Nathan purchases on e- Bay.  He employs a highly individual "smudging" technique that on the one hand imparts a sci-fi, Barbarella-like quality to these women, and on the other hand adds an element of melancholy as their beauty seems to drip away from them.  Small but powerful, these miniature portraits pulsate with seduction and sadness.

Nathan Ritterpusch's agent is RARE Gallery, of New York.


Sigga B. Sigurdardóttir*

On skewed paper, the creations of the young Icelandic artist Sigga Bjorg Sigurdardóttir sport brightly coloured, curled-up shirts, ankle socks stretched high, and fleecy tutus. They prompt most viewers to release the kind of 'aah!' normally reserved for a peep into the pushchair of young mum. But these drawings are anything but playroom adjuncts. Take a good look. They come to life. They spit, dribble,  retch, crawl up each other, poke, trample, hurt each other or just stand and mourn their dead. The hidden world in which these beasts of drooling mouths and hairy arms exist is a mirror world. Deep-rooted in Icelandic mythology is a belief in forest-dwelling goblins, trolls and fairies who wreak mischief and play pranks on humans. Inevitably this has its impact on Sigga's method of working. "I see myself as very Icelandic. Naturally, this means my unconscious is full of things I learned or saw as I grew up in Iceland. I'm not trying to create something 'Icelandic' in my work. I'm just trying to be honest." This honesty, a kind of self-analysis from a safe distance, is an oblique admission of mistakes made, a search for a stance. Safe because, as a nagging voice of reason reminds us, these little creatures are not real. Thus Sigurdardóttir's drawings draw on myths of weird creatures. With sensitive but ambiguous simplicity, her work explores conflicting emotions:
laughing and crying, attraction and repulsion, sympathy and gloating (from the text of a catalogue by Katharina Klara Jung, 2006).

Sigga Bjorg Sigurdardóttir's agent is Galerie Adler, Frankfurt.


Judit Villiger (Switzerland, 1966)

Judit Villiger's pocket museum housed sculpted details of 14 art works of different styles and epochs. Now her latest paintings are inspired by literary descriptions of nature. Drawing on fantasy landscapes and descriptions of imaginary places by Jules Verne and Robert Walser, the artist has created 3D models using packing materials and leftovers from model-building kits. Having set up her models, she can use them as a base for miniature portrayals of a natural utopia, in the manner of an old master, in oil on gesso.


Christian Weihrauch (Germany, 1966)

Christian Weihrauch shows crayon drawings "with their unconventional, tender, and fabric- like structures and with their strange, fantastic themes." They provide him with a painter's reference, not in the sense of colouring a world of pictures but rather as a linearly growing colour pattern. This world of colours, perceptible in the drawings grows, along this line, into a sculptured and, at times, imaginary space. However, these make-believe spaces are not structured: they grow by themselves. Colours and hatchings form abstract shapes, hinting at the subject and forming a microstructure, which makes the drawings grow from inside. "Crayons enable me to spy out dream dimensions directly without violating their three- dimensionality. The proliferation of patterns and textures creates regions which I have to explore and would like to take with me - like frozen crystals" (from a text by Dr. Katja Schneider).
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