Astrid Klein
Germany, 1951
Over four decades Astrid Klein (Cologne, 1951) has produced work that encompasses painting, sculpture, installation, photography and collage. Text became a central feature of her work very early on. Initially her own thoughts on literature, aesthetics, philosophy and science were reflected in her paintings, and later she selected fragments of material from a variety of sources. In the 1980s she explored the representation of women in film and photonovels of the 60s and 70s, focusing her analysis on voyeurism and fetishism. In her collages, she combines text and images (taken from magazines and newspapers) that do not share the same semantic level in order to create frictions and cracks through which new meanings are revealed. In her series of black-and-white paintings and large-format photographic compositions—in which she decomposes images by means of chemical processes that fragment and distort them—she creates surfaces that are difficult to read or decipher, as in the case of Untitled (1987). Klein uses these techniques to challenge the imposition of univocal meanings and highlight the difficulty of interpretation. Since the early 1990s the artist has used neon tubes and mirrors in her sculptures and installations. The surfaces of the mirrors often appear to have been shattered by an impact of some kind and therefore reflect an image of the viewer that is fragmented, deformed and multiple, symbolising the impossibility of ascribing a fixed, graspable identity to the subject, as well as pointing to the limits of visibility. The neon tubes present lines of text that fade with repetition, alluding to the loss of memory (whether personal or historic) and its fragile nature. For Klein, it is not only the meaning of words that is important; she also sees their intensity, size, typeface and accentuation as relevant factors which reflect the processes that underpin our thinking and perception, the choices we make about whether to suppress or validate past experiences, and the constant crossovers of the conscious and the subconscious. In her photographs, collages and installations, she deconstructs and renews the relationship between text and image. Astrid Klein’s work has been featured in major exhibitions at venues including the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, and the Museum Ludwig in Cologne. She also participated in Documenta 8 and the 42nd Venice Biennale.
Alicia Murría