Modern masters specialist Michael Werner has stayed true to excellent form this summer with an exhibition on ‘Flora, Fauna and Other Forms of Life’. The show features important works from gallery favourites Hans Arp and Georg Baselitz, as well as influential examples from Enrico David, Paul Klee and Sigmar Polke, among many other exceptional names.
The high calibre works are all loosely affiliated with the theme of naturalistic imagery. All the featured works share an element of the grotesque, the metamorphoric and the down-right scary – such as the distorted actors that populate Friedrich Schröder Sonnenstern’s drawings, which are one part humorous, two parts terrifying. There’s the mad, grimacing scientist figure of Zynus Theory – whether Demon of Dessication and Withering (1953), or the long-limbed, stileto’d horse of The Moon Rider Official on a White Horse (1956).
Meanwhile, Hans Arp’s fluid concrete sculpture, Pflanzengriffel (Pistil) (1959), interplays with AR Penck’s patinated bronze S (1985). Both abstract shapes look like dark flowers sprouting from the white gallery space, and provide a moment of calm from the mythical madness. They contrast the other notable sculpture on display, Jörg Immendorff'’s Gertrude (2001); a bent-double bronze lady stumbling endlessly along on giant shoes.
The ‘Other Forms of Life’ aspect of the show is covered by the red-splashes of Sigmar Polke's Untitled (1996), where an open mouthed coy carp morphs into a dragon, or a hedgehog, or a snake, depending on your perspective.
‘We wanted to create a dark physiological garden,’ Kadee Robbins, the director at Michael Werner’s London outpost told Wallpaper*. ‘We wanted to populate the gallery with real and mythical creatures, plausible and far fetched plants.’ This mingling of the magical with the factual takes gallery-goers on a folkloric dream they’re not likely to wake from for some time.