Collec57 x 120 inches 57 x 120 inchesOil and marker on canvasCourtesy of the artist
Tanya108 x 86 inches108 x 86 inchesOil and marker on canvasCourtesy of the artist
Tanya96 x 62 inches96 x 62 inchesOil and marker on canvasCourtesy of the artist
To stand before one of Thomas Scheibitz’s vast canvases can be an unsettling experience: the brightly colored surfaces of his paintings manage simultaneously to convey unbridled energy and leave one inexplicably cold. It is precisely this paradox that enables the German artist to so successfully evoke the malaise of contemporary culture. His work hovers uneasily between abstraction and representation, residing within the ever-growing rift between lived experience and mediated image. This exhibition includes an entirely new body of paintings created during Scheibitz’s residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Marin, CA as well as works on paper and sculpture.
Each of Scheibitz’s paintings features some recognizable and usually quite mundane object or landscape—a flower, an apartment building, a stairwell. This subject matter is then thoroughly abstracted so that only the vestiges of its structure shine through. Solid forms are broken up into jagged planes of color, which are thickly outlined with contrasting hues in a manner reminiscent of the late-nineteenth-century Fauvists. Each shape manages to stand boldly alone, yet the composition never seems unduly fragmented; the shapes somehow coalesce to form a coherent whole.
The surfaces of Scheibitz’s works are far from uniform: streaky brushstrokes and drips of color permeate the canvas, and some sections are left unfinished, merely sketched in. These visible traces of Scheibitz’s process serve to activate his paintings, imbuing them with an expressionistic vitality. At the same time, Scheibitz’s compositions keep his paintings at a chilly remove. We are clearly not invited to enter his world—an impression intensified by the unyielding flatness of his picture plane.
Scheibitz is a colorist who chooses his palette to augment the formal tensions that distinguish his compositions. He favors the decadently ugly shades associated with 1970s chic—olive green, pale mauve, dull orange. These limpid colors are shot through with super-saturated sky blues, vivid reds, and lemon yellows, which infuse the canvas with a dynamism that counteracts its otherwise impassive demeanor. The placement of each color is precisely calculated to balance or neutralize its neighbors, a device which heightens the effect of extreme flatness. Even Scheibitz’s concessions to architectural perspective fail to lend the paintings any depth. The deep contradictions that characterize Scheibitz’s paintings—between vigor and apathy, flatness and depth, fragmentation and fusion—in a sense mirror the strange dislocations created by the digital age. We are surrounded by machines that promise to make life more productive, more exciting; instead, they seem merely to increase the pace and distance us further from reality. Through painting, a medium deeply identified with the past, Scheibitz effectively expresses the spirit of contemporary existence.
Thomas Scheibitz/MATRIX 195 I-geometrica B was organized by the UC Berkeley Art Museum.
The MATRIX Program at the UC Berkeley Art Museum is made possible by the generous endowment gift of Phyllis Wattis. Additional donors to the MATRIX Program include the UAM Council MATRIX Endowment, Ann M. Hatch, Eric McDougall, and Glenn and April Bucksbaum.