There’s an airplane in the room. Admittedly, in parts that Mikhail Pirgelis recycled from the wrecks of passenger planes. Very real finds, which, however, do not immediately reveal their origin. It could be abstract images. Picturesque tableaux hanging on the wall like the classic panel painting. With amorphous spots and dissolving forms, with colored or metallic parts, sometimes in monochrome, sometimes with graphic grids.
Pirgelis makes an impressive statement right at the entrance to the cleverly composed exhibition space in the Sprüth Magers gallery. The first look is aimed behind the scenes, so to speak, of the show entitled “Opaque Surfaces”. Regularly arranged, angular steel girders give the structure in the background, which is more than two meters high, an almost absurd stability. Viewed from the front, “American Black” becomes a pictorial platform whose wood-like surface is structured by vertical lines and covered with patches of adhesive tape reminiscent of plasters.
The small and medium formats (20,000-32,000 €) also reveal their technoid origins on the sides and at the same time play with all sorts of references to 20th-century art; evoke memories of Marcel Duchamp’s Ready Mades, of abstract expressionism, analytical painting à la Robert Ryman as well as minimalist sculpture.
The artist, who was born in Essen in 1976 and grew up in Xanthi, Greece, uses economical means to transform aircraft scrap into poetic and enigmatic structures that emphasize and at the same time undermine the pictorial. He deforms the material, which consists of aluminum, titanium and fiberglass, exposes the shiny silver background here, sands off some paint there, leaves the remains of an airline logo, finds grid structures by emphasizing or removing rivets, so that rhythmic dot elements emerge.
He thinks sculpturally, says Pirgelis, who completed his studies at the Düsseldorf Art Academy in 2009 with Rosemarie Trockel. And if you look closely, they are actually sculptures in the literal sense – after all, he basically works on the discarded aircraft skins like a sculptor works on stone. Cuts and mills details from wings or cockpits, bends fuselage fragments into flat surfaces.
This is not a picture, it also hovers like a motto over three panels called “Nature Study”, which evoke nature as a co-author. The marks of sun, rain and storms – all weathers have etched themselves into the surfaces of the Mojave Desert Airplane Graveyard where Pirgelis has been collecting its raw material for 20 years. Some like wounds, others like floating islands from the air. Three large formats (€65,000-100,000) turn out to be the floor of the passenger compartment, complete with its signs of wear and the rails for the rows of chairs. Like a second wall on the masonry, “Desert Star I” also becomes an oversized, albeit practical collage on which various smaller objects are installed. As an installation in space, “Desert Star II” can be surrounded by visitors and viewed from all sides. Just sculpture.
With the 90-degree turn, Michail Pirgelis brings the ground of reality – from which it comes – onto the wall or into the room, thereby unhinging our idea of gravitation. Puts our sense of balance in a pleasant sway. Involuntarily, our receptors seem to want to move the tableaux off the wall back into a horizontal position. So that we can move on it in old habit. Or run up and down the wall with our horizontally imagined body. able to fly. The age-old dream of mankind, to which Pirgelis gives a subtle, melancholic twist with his artistic loopings.