Situated off the beaten art track in Berlin-Kreuzberg, Gallery Laura Mars recently presented “Rock Hard,” a solo exhibition of new works by the German artist Jan-Holger Mauss. In his 2004 show “B2B and Back Again” at the same venue, Mauss displayed works by other artists for which he posed in a women’s bikini that he made from a pattern found on the Internet. This time he showed his own ongoing series begun in 2003 and titled “ONS” (short for one-night stand). For it, Mauss collects black-and-white images from post-1945 gay porn magazines. Using a special eraser, he then delicately effaces the nude model on each page while leaving the background. The result is a scene emptied of figures, with traces of an intervention detected in vaguely metamorphosing organic forms emerging from rockscapes and waterfalls, or as halations appearing among props or furniture.
The first room contained roughly a dozen outdoor scenes, “landscapes” of a sort. Although Mauss’s rubbings are neither paintings nor colored, some of them, especially The Roundabouts 5 (2006-07), depicting a desolate scene with a disquieting, misty figure, are reminiscent of, and almost as remarkable as, the landscapes Francis Bacon created toward the end of his life. To hijack John Russell’s interpretation of Bacon’s Sand Dune (1983), the rocks and trees in Mauss’s works are “turning into a human anatomy that has not yet defined itself.”
While in the landscapes the artist’s erasure has gently transformed the original magazine figures into ghostlike shrouds, the figures are altogether more abrasively, even violently, eliminated from the largely vertical interiors. Mauss leaves behind unnatural folds in bed sheets, strange creases in leather couches and other clues: disembodied fingers on the back of a bentwood chair, or half a foot stepping onto a black frame. Despite the occasional body part left as a clue, the interiors are enigmatic, and it is harder to bridge a semantic divide between what remains and what might once have been there. Still, when a lonely sledgehammer, the remnant of a sexual double entendre, is paired with the original caption that the artist has deliberately let stand—“Johnnie, how is that for a hammer?”—one is perhaps more able to imagine the original erotic scenario.
Photo: Jan-Holger Mauss: Roy Clark, from the series “The Roundabouts,” 2006-07, partly erased magazine page, 11 by 8 1/2 inches; at Laura Mars.