Künstlerhaus Bethanien celebrated its 40th anniversary last week with the launch of the latest exhibition The Mechanical Corps, a group show curated by Peter Lang and Christoph Tannert, and an Open Studio event showcasing the works of the Künstlerhaus artists-in-residence.
The evening opened at 7pm to an eager crowd gathered outside the gallery. After a quick tour of the immense exhibition downstairs, I made my way to my intended destination: the studio spaces on the upper floors. I was drawn first to Israeli artist Alona Rodeh‘s green-lit studio space. Rodeh is an established installation and ‘architectural performance’ artist, who is originally from Tel Aviv but currently based in Berlin. Her studio space was covered in swatches of reflective, glow-in-the-dark fabric that she often uses in her finished works. Many of Rodeh’s works play with light and sound, like her 2013 solo show Above and Beyond at the Center for Contemporary Art in Tel Aviv. In this installation piece she replicated a section of the Wailing Wall – one of Jerusalem’s holiest sites – enhanced by projectors shining through the back and illuminating the viewers.
In the opposite wing of the studio floor, Texan artist Karen Mahaffy (currently in Berlin as part of the Blue Star Contemporary’s Berlin Residency Program) presented a much more polished display. A bare lightbulb hung from the ceiling of her studio, at about forehead height on me, and the walls were covered in her latest work. Mahaffy creates eerily banal, still life interiors that she then reproduces in placid video form.
Jorge Pineda ‘s studio was the most luxurious by far. Pineda, originally from the Dominican Republic, is working at the Künstlerhaus as part of a Davidoff Art Initiative. While most studios offered wine in plastic cups, Pineda’s studio had a whole selection of hors d’oeuvres and complementary glasses of champagne (no cigars, however). The Davidoff Art Residency provides Dominican and Caribbean artists with the opportunity to participate in international residency programs.
The funding apparatus supporting Pineda was clear, but his work still maintained an unpretentious quality. Pineda gave me a tour of his pieces, which were largely works-in-progress demonstrating his talents in pen and ink drawing. Pineda’s drawings hover over several themes – a young girl with a haunting presence tries on a series of what look like Mexican wrestling masks, the outlines of each remaining on her face. The masks and the playfulness of youth seem to guide his works, but there remains a certain chilling quality to them, especially in their unfinished form.