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Kunsthalle Mainz presents a major solo exhibition of the artist Michael Kalmbach
Wesen (2006-45), 2006. Watercolour on paper, 220 x 140 cm. Courtesy: Thomas Rehbein Galerie, Cologne. Photo: Simon Vogel.

MAINZ.- On the occasion of the “Kultursommer Rheinland-Pfalz” taking place under the motto “God and the World,” the Kunst­halle Mainz is presenting a major solo exhibition of the artist Michael Kalmbach (born in 1962 in Landau, lives in Berlin). In addition to an extensive selection of his large- and small-scale watercolors, his sculptural work is also comprehensively featured. The artist’s picture story “Der große und der kleine Paul” (Big Paul and Little­ Paul) consisting of fifty watercolors accompanied by texts will serve as the point of departure for the show in Mainz. In Old-Testament style, the fairy-tale-like plot recounts a kind of story of creation in which conditions of violence and oppression are overcome by an unusual act of liberation on the part of “Little Paul.”

Michael Kalmbach’s figurative, narrative oeuvre revolves around recurring double themes such as power and powerlessness, creation and destruction, pleasure and pain, family and childhood. These partially interwoven thematic complexes usually appear as antithetical and at the same time mutually dependent forces or princi­ples. The often unsparingly open depictions of sexuality and violence contrast starkly with the artist’s figural and formal language, which possesses a delicate and sometimes downright ephemeral quality. Working with the element of chance, he frequently develops motivic elements from dabs and splatters of paint. In a sense, the initially non-representative forms serve as a catalyst for the for­mation of the image. At first glance, most of his watercolors are reminiscent of idyllic scenes from the contexts of family and childhood and, occasionally, children’s and fairy tale books. On closer­ inspection, however, the subjects prove to be often drasti­-cally blatant revelations of existential, and in some cases violent, con­ditions. The effect can be all the more disturbing on account of the fact that the artist emphasizes his abandonment to the tenuous, fluid materiality of the watercolor to the same degree.Not only in his painted works, but also in his sculptures, Michael Kalmbach – who studied sculpting with Michael Croissant at the Städelschule in Frankfurt – has created his own cosmos of forms and figures, which he has con­tinually changed and renewed in fluid transitions. In the 1990s he produced an individual and self-contained world of plaster sculptures developed for the most part from casts of the limbs of dolls. Here again, the viewer encounters what looks at first like a playful cosmos whose figures – and the actions they carry out in constel­lations merely alluded to – make reference to general conditions of existence, positive and negative. For a number of years, the artist has been making papier-mâché sculptures which hang from the ceiling as marionette-like figures or mobiles in formations usually quite expansive in size. They likewise form a world of their own, again – despite the meanwhile more fragile formal language – revolving around such themes as life and death, creation and destruction.

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