This Board does not reflect the official opinion of the Hochschule für Bildende Künste–Städelschule.This Board does not reflect the official opinion of the Hochschule für Bildende Künste–Städelschule. This Board does not reflect the official opinion of the Hochschule für Bildende Künste–Städelschule. 
Michael Pfrommer, Ohne Titel, 2019, Öl auf Leinwand, 46 x 53,5 cmMichael Pfrommer, Ohne Titel, 2019, Öl auf Leinwand, 46 x 53,5 cm

Michael Pfrommer

October 23 — December 23, 2020

When Michael Pfrommer was a child he ran his arm through the glass pane of a door while trying to escape his father. The glass cut the back of his left hand so deep and clean it hardly bled, and he could see his tendons still intact in the mouth of the wound tugging when he moved his fingers. The cut, for whatever reason, refused to heal, and when the stitches came out three weeks later the skin immediately pulled apart. For a number of reasons I figure that a door is more to Michael than just an object to paint on. He’s made an image beyond the surface, a place you arrive at without stepping forward and crossing a threshold, and in doing so he might in some way offer the exit he once sought. A door failed him. It became the sort of punishment he was trying to escape, and now he’s gone and filled a room with pictures on doors that lead nowhere, close nothing, and stand ajar in our midst to look at and beyond. Affixed to the wall, they stand as tall as us, two sided, in conversation it seems, establishing a new order from every corner of the room.

On these doors he’s painted feet descending the staircase of my childhood home, mushrooms, and our daughter lost in the folds of a blanket. He’s painted pants kneeling in the grass that he claims have fallen, pants that I’ve always thought were awaiting execution. He uses water a lot. Water, in endlessly malleable forms flood his pictures, drip down sidewalks, fall down stairs, fill and carry cups and mattresses. Water, which may be at times impossible to separate from the sky. He’s painted waves that meet the shore like a rippling sheet. Waves, that in his paintings and drawings sometimes cover the bodies of people. People that remind us of the world in which we live and the spaces we define. In his pictures Michael both simply and painstakingly depicts life, elaborating on it without an evident agenda. He cites and recites, images and situations we remember collectively, things that happen around us, to us, between us. Clothes, bodies, streets, still lives, everything he works with become symbols that speak baring the evidence of this time and place, the life we lead as folk with infinitely-individual common interests, and sentiments.

While riding my bike one night, I swerved to avoid a glove that was lost in the middle of the street, because I was overwhelmed by the impulse not to drive over a hand. We navigate life in response to the visual cues that we’ve learned to interpret, and just as successfully, learned to consciously forget. These are the only tools required to consider Michaels work, they are the tools that he prefers no matter what the outcome. We initially see in pictures, what we cannot help not seeing. I believe that the impulse evoked on first encounter dictates our desires and our intentions as we unconsciously define the world that we’re confronted with.

When Arshile Gorkys wife, Agnes Magruder, saw her husband one day from the kitchen window leaving his barn studio with a rope slung over his shoulder, heading up the hill toward a tree to hang himself, she sent the children running after him and told them to hurry because daddy was building them a swing.
Adrian Williams


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