Christian Achenbach’s new exhibition ”Isotopes” is essentially an homage to the language and measures of early Modernism. Achenbach describes his output and process as an investigation into the emergence of Modernism subjected to the aesthetic codes of our time.
The style of “Isotopes” is consistently non-figurative, and most of the works fall somewhere between geometric abstraction and concrete art. The inspiration for the show is to be found in such diverse places as Harry Bertoia’s sculptures, the paintings of Leopold Survage, Willi Baumeister and Ben Nicholson, and artistic philosophies such as Constructivism, Op Art and Minimalism.
Achenbach refers to his loans as “visual quotes”: The exercise is to extract a specific quote from its original context and place it in an entirely new one. In this way, a singular form from a Survage painting suddenly becomes a steel and glass sculpture: An idea reintroduced in a new material; a new context. Because to Achenbach, materials are just as important as the composition of an artwork. Or rather; The two are inseparable to him.
Glass in particular plays a leading role in “Isotopes”, where the translucence of multicolored prisms and their ability to capture and disperse light is essential. But also steel is a recurring theme throughout the show, as even the paintings have been mounted in stainless steel floaters. And by utilizing steel this way, Achenbach highlights the purpose of his latest production, the attempt to articulate the dichotomy of material and content: Is the frame part of the artwork? Is the painting an object? Does the material inform the motif, or is it the other way around?
The exhibition offers no unequivocal answers, but it isn't really supposed to either. First and foremost, Achenbach wants to force his audience to look at art in a new way. And in this he succeeds.