Saturday, December 22, 2007

Thomas Zipp

65 Peckham Road
November 16–January 13

With a focus on conflicting worldviews and a professed fascination with the “weirdness of mankind,” Berlin-based artist Thomas Zipp has created an overwhelming room-filling installation that takes viewers on a bizarre tour through the history of ideas. Working across a wide range of media and examining topics including astronomy and religion, Zipp brings together influential characters as diverse as astronomer Tycho Brahe, religious reformer Martin Luther, and members of the British heavy-metal band Black Sabbath (whose 1970 song “Planet Caravan” was the inspiration for the installation’s eccentric title) to make a profound statement on both our ongoing search for universal truths and its often-absurd outcome. The usually spacious gallery has been turned into a cluttered labyrinth of surreal constructions, paintings, and sculptures. Narrow pathways are created by gray display panels, which also host Zipp’s darkly humorous takes on historical and contemporary models of human existence. Images of scientists and religious thinkers, with shiny thumbtacks stuck into their eyes, stare down blindly from panels or poles, while a wide-eyed Martin Luther looks suspiciously at wooden sculptures of Newton’s apple displayed nearby on black plinths. Across the room, a panel with a rough drawing of Brahe’s model of the universe is juxtaposed with an assemblage on a neighboring panel, representing the Copernican alternative, in which a chair, whose legs have been altered to splay outward, symbolizes the sun. In the heart of Zipp’s labyrinth, viewers encounter a wooden chapel housing a stone baptistry that holds not water but mushrooms, drawing attention to an altogether different kind of truth, reached with the help of certain recreational substances. Back outside, four large-scale abstract animal sculptures graze on the gallery floor. Their striking resemblance to Henry Moore’s organic shapes may be a coincidence, but placed within the proximity of this mysterious place of worship, they may just as well be an ironic sideswipe at the sacrosanct, quasi-religious status accorded to modern art.

—Sandra Rehme

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