It can be Schinkel or Mies van der Rohe or the nameless investor architecture that one finds in abundance in Berlin’s inner-city development areas: the artist Max Paul absorbs these different forms, Schinkel’s columns, the clear lines at Mies and the floor-to-ceiling windows of a residential complex that until now only existed as the dream of an imaginary family looking forward to finally looking down on Berlin from the communal roof terrace.
Max Paul, born in 1992 and raised in Berlin, shows his approach to the architectural history of the city, which is as conceptual as it is haptic. “Resting Visions” is the name of his first solo exhibition at the Schöneberger Galerie, for which he brought a congenial partner in crime to his side, the painter Werner Heldt, who died in 1954 and who captured Berlin’s urban canyons in numerous pictures and drawings, but not like her were; more as he, as a war veteran, saw her: empty, cold and psychotic.
In the two rooms of the gallery, Paul combines two Mies van der Rohe “Barcelona” loungers, which he had recreated in their original proportions, with a seven-part picture cycle by Heldt. Paul’s loungers (each 8,500 euros) are sculpture and seating at the same time. Not upholstered in black leather like Mies’, but with advertising banners for real estate projects stolen from construction sites, showing renderings of future residential buildings, complete with potential residents stretching in yoga poses on the balcony.
It is a polished, formatted vision of Berlin that Paul, as a trained architect and professional photographer, critically questions, especially in light of earlier architectural visions such as they embody.
The framed leaves of a lithographic portfolio by Heldt from 1949 can be seen, the only color portfolio that exists of him (35,000 euros). Gallery owner Noah Klink was able to unpack them from the inventory of the traditional Charlottenburg gallery Brusberg, which has had Heldt’s works in the program for a long time. There are seven city views, including the cover sheet, showing Berlin’s tenements, S-Bahn arches and street canyons in bright colors and clear lines, while a flood, sometimes blazing red, surges through the otherwise empty streets, which are unrealistically intact for the post-war period.
Heldt grew up in Berlin-Mitte in the vicarage of the Parochial Church. As a young man he was drafted into the Wehrmacht, was taken prisoner by the British and later, back in Berlin, had a short, productive creative phase, interspersed with illness and psychological problems. He died of a stroke at the age of 50.
Heldt’s drawings are a psychogram of the destroyed city and of one’s own fragile self. And Paul deals with his object of investigation, the built-up Berlin urban space, in a similarly subjective way. He digs from his own encounter with the city and from the repertoire of the past with its different utopias and visions. A cosmetic face mask applied to a mirror shows a piece of the Brandenburg Gate on a real estate advertising brochure.
As a visitor, you can reflect in this mask and ask yourself: Where am I in this city, with its apartments that I cannot or do not want to afford, with the commercial dreams of investors that are as lifeless as Heldt’s painted streets?
Both series of works, that of the older one and that of the younger one, give each other depth, they reflect on the emptiness, which can be built, real or spiritual in nature – states that are sometimes mutually dependent.