It’s a well-worn truism that artwork could be no matter’s on the pedestal. Following this cue, Michèle Pagel takes a broad method. Her cumbersome cast-concrete caryatids, resembling archaeological finds, maintain up tokens and symbols of world tradition and civilization, allegories of the lightness of the spirit and the heft of the physique. She doesn’t distinguish the numerous from the trivial, making use of a clenched fist—a gesture of solidarity and resistance—as readily as a Rolls-Royce hood decoration.
For Pagel’s solo present “Rats, Roaches, Pigeons, Folks,” the distinction between the historic Boltenstern Bar’s elegant design and the béton and brique brut in Galerie Meyer Kainer’s en suite exhibition house couldn’t be any sharper: Patisserie meets lumberyard. Pagel’s mode of manufacturing shuns the applying of soppy supplies. As a substitute, she delights in chopping (unfired) bricks, aligning the items, and gluing them collectively, then slicing them up with saws, portray and glazing them, and making use of ornamental mosaics and, when vital, a touch of platinum.
Pagel reaches deep into the modernist stock, coming again up with readymades and Surrealist objets trouvés. Most of them are issues of small worth, just like the post-GDR-era tile desk: bric-a-brac delivered to mild in devoted dives into thrift shops. Amongst these heapings of life’s leftovers are items of wrought-iron fencing, a birdcage (which inevitably brings Duchamp’s Why Not Sneeze? Rose Sélavy, 1921, to thoughts), a cheesy vase formed like a police uniform, and the monogrammed heavy bronze door handles acquainted from the branches of Sparkasse banks. The result’s a repertoire as highly effective and subversive as it’s picturesque and humorous: uncompromising, anarchist, cool, and, dare we are saying, avant-garde.
Translated from German by Gerrit Jackson.