Jeff Beer at Gallery Schlesinger

ARTNEWS – Volume 86 / Nr. 6

Schlesinger-Boisanté (New York)

Beer, a German-born artist, achieves a surprising amount of visual grace with what would seem to be highly unwieldy material – scrap iron taken from bits and pieces of old wheels, machinery and old tools. A found-iron torso makes up the bulk of She’s Combing Her hair, which also includes skinny metal arms, twisty legs and a head made out of an iron rectangle with features cut in. Like most of the work, this piece is considerably smaller than life size. Body parts undergo strange dis- locations and displacements; one young lady is constituted almost entirely of a large, blue-patined iron dress, her head nothing more than an iron oval and her arms shaped by an arc of the flimsiest metal, while the rest of her physical being is virtually non-existent.
 Beer forges and fuses his imposing delicacies so that the soldering often shows at the joints – providing even more grace notes to works that always seems to be in process. Bird is no more than a thin, slightly curved rod of iron, with two iron tail feathers soldered on and a hook-shaped form outlining the body and head. Stag is an assemblage of screwy (literally and figuratively) pieces of metal that somehow gathers up a visual aplomb equal to the proud nature of its subject.
 The exhibition was titled „The Music Of Iron,“ and with good reason. Beer is an acknowledged avant-garde composer and percussionist, having won several prestigious awards in Germany. Still, the art bug has bitten deep. Beer’s first sculptures evolved from sketches and were in ceramic and wood. The breakthrough came during solitary walks in remoter areas of Germany, when he found those scraps of iron.
 Beer surely owes something to Ernst, Miró and the Surrealist ethos in general – except that his output is usually less ponderous and funnier than theirs. A couple of pieces were not so good-humored, however. The Grand Inquisitor features two big, rusty, upright sets of shears on a butcher-knife base. Reaching even further into the psychic darkness was Mask, with its facial  „helmet“ topped by two horns, and scraps of iron shoring up the piece from the back. Mask was primitive yet fiercely handsome – out of Amadeus and The Emerald Forest at the same time. Beer, the insouciant magician of iron, has not overlooked the gravity, and even the horror, of human life. Mostly, though, he plays – to our benefit and delight.
         Henry Gerrit