The 5th week of the Berliner Luft series presents a selection of work from Bernhard Martin. Martin fuses reality and fantasy, bringing art historical and pop imagery together in surreal juxtaposition through his established practice consisting of primarily oil paintings, sculptures, and colored pencil drawings. Martin has characteristically maximized this opportunity to exhibit in Berliner Luft, with works on paper from 2017–18 and a rowdy wall sculpture from 2005 titled Peace for Snoop Doggy Dog, previously censored from institutional exhibition.
Martin plays with double entendre, cartoonish jokes, often focusing on the vanities of influencers, press conferences, and pushers of fake news, combined with erotic fantasy and fetish iconography. Martin assembles and sorts out these relationships in his drawings and collage works, which then inform his oil paintings. For this reason, his works on paper are a crucial component of his practice. Featured in Berliner Luft is a psychedelic portrait of a figure in asymmetrical sunglasses and cap, aptly titled The Influencer, while conceivably also under the influence. In Ohrfeigen für permanenten Stumpfsinn (Slapping for permanent dullness), a tawdry “Smurfette” reprimands bureaucratic men in suits taking phone calls and fingering sweets. The third drawing, from his series Disconnected Truths, depicts a volcanic explosion of ties and oysters. The composition spews moral symbolism and provokes notions of passions both physical and financial.
Martin explores the realm of the absurd in his sculptural work, Peace for Snoop Doggy Dog. A green nose protrudes from the wall, suspiciously congested with Swarovski crystal crystals and red and white holiday ornaments. With this assemblage and unanticipated pop-culture context, Martin confounds the viewer, defying logic. “I want a preconceived aesthetic perception to slip and slide. I want the ground to become slippery …That’s the most beautiful thing anyone can achieve.”—Bernhard Martin in conversation with Florian Illies on “The Beautiful in the Peculiar,” in Image Ballet, exh. cat., Haus am Waldsee, Verlag Walther König, Cologne 2020.