Gallery Hopping: Heinrich Dunst Defies Words at KOW

'Things, Not Words' is a formal delight.


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Heinrich Dunst at KOW
Heinrich Dunst at KOW
Heinrich Dunst at KOW
Heinrich Dunst at KOW
Heinrich Dunst at KOW
Heinrich Dunst at KOW
Heinrich Dunst at KOW


Exhibits at Berlin’s KOW Gallery can have a particularly elusive streak, showing unconventional works that challenge the viewer to wonder what it is about the label “art” that elevates, say, a roll of rubber tubing, to something more than a material at a construction site.

One of the gallery’s latest exhibitions is an installation by Heinrich Dunst called “Things, Not Words,” that prods viewers to see past their everyday associations of objects.

Dunst, born near Salzburg in 1955, currently lives and works in Vienna. His practice consists of what KOW’s website describes as “spatial interventions and performances that navigate the gap between what can be seen and what can be said, the untranslatability of one form into another, and the contextual nature of spatial presentations,” inspired by artists like Marcel Broodthaers, and the 1980s art scene in Vienna.

Hence, “Things, Not Words” is exemplary of Dunst’s work. The assortment of objects includes a brightly colored doormat with a geometric pattern, reminiscent of an ultimate commercial distillation of Mondrian-esque abstraction. On the wall above hangs a blue plastic crate that appears to have once held water bottles; from this angle, it can be appreciated for its aesthetic value and repetitive circular pattern.

Mirroring the crate’s rectangular shape are small, canvas-like objects hanging near it, one bearing the word “Film,” repeated twice, the other “Dinge,” the German word for “things.” The rectangular objects look like minimally designed book covers, or empty advertisements with Helvetica font.

Above and below is a pair of pants cut in two; the larger piece recognizable, yet amputated; the smaller piece an abstract, tapered quadrilateral. A large piece of flat wood leans against the wall on one side, and on the other, a blue rubber cord is wrapped, pretzel-like, around itself. Across the room, on a parallel concrete wall, is a single, long, black rectangle.

Together, the “things” relate to each other by their formal qualities—colors and shapes beg to be made sense of, compared and contrasted. The array is undoubtedly visually lovely, but, as intended by the artist, defies definite articulation in words.

Heinrich Dunst, “Things, Not Words” is on view at KOW in Berlin until January 29, 2017.

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