Thomas Scheibitz
mk/ULTRA
September 23–October 29, 2011
Berlin

Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers are delighted to present mk/ULTRA, the second solo exhibition of new work by Thomas Scheibitz at the gallery in Berlin.

In his paintings and sculptures, Thomas Scheibitz explores the possibilities of abstraction and figuration, transcending the categorical assignment of these concepts by evolving his own pictorial language. His work examines the interrelationship between visual and linguistic information, incorporating architectural and landscape elements alongside value-laden symbols or heraldic motifs. Although Scheibitz’s multipart compositions bear legible traces of reality, attempting to determine their meaning with the aid of conventional principles of classification and systems of order does not take us very far. The process of determining the appropriate degree of encoding when combining existing elements and things that have never been seen before is repeated in the work titles, which are derived from an individual collection of names, slogans, literary references and invented terms accrued from art history, the media or popular culture. The titles provide no explicit indication of the works’ content; indeed they themselves emphasise the variable meaning of linguistic signs, their capacity to migrate into other contexts and their expressive potential as text-based images.

 

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With the title of the current exhibition – mk/ULTRA – Scheibitz enters a field of historico-cultural study into the relationship between the human subject and reality, and how this relationship can be influenced or controlled with the aid of targeted information. In its alternative spelling, ‘MKULTRA’ is the code name of an American secret service programme that was in operation from the 1950s until the end of the Cold War. This experimental research project involved attempts to develop a ‘truth drug’ and other forms of mind control that were intended to make people divulge important information without any direct physical coercion. While mk was simply an abbreviated reference to a particular governmental institution, the Latin word ultra means ‘beyond, in excess of’. The term became popular during the 20th century, both in the realm of art and in everyday speech: it was a favoured expression among the Surrealists and the Ultra-Lettrists, ‘ultras’ is used to describe a subculture of football supporters, and a hardcore band from Chicago also called themselves MK-Ultra.

For his new exhibition at Sprüth Magers Berlin, Thomas Scheibitz has devised a specific configuration of works for the gallery space, which he has further transformed by incorporating a column into the existing architecture. This sculptural intervention with the coated pillar alters the perception of the space and historicises its basic structure. A similar interaction between painterly surfaces and three-dimensional volumes is set in motion in object-based works such as the sculpture Terrasse (2011) or the relief If Seven was Nine (2011): by deploying the materiality of rust – a product of corrosion – or the haptic qualities and structure of coloured fabric, Scheibitz uses untypical materials to imitate monochrome painting and its distinctive surface properties.

The versatility of numbers and letters, which are key components of Scheibitz’s formal vocabulary, is apparent in his painting Nachricht (2011) – a conglomeration of geometric forms, shapes, abstracted ground plans, architectural fragments and the numeral 1. His interest in logos and pictographs stems, among other things, from a preoccupation with the etchings of the Venetian artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720 – 1778), who constructed initial letters using elements drawn from the visual language of architecture. In Scheibitz’s paintings, linguistic signs and numbers are likewise integrated into a tectonic space, where tiered planes and overlapping fore- and backgrounds serve to generate a sense of depth. In the artificial parallel worlds of his works, the visual signs express their own, open-ended semantics as carriers of cultural meaning. In Kino (2011), the impression of a place where new images are generated is reinforced by the centralised perspective: alluding to the projection space of cinema, the painting focuses our attention on this medium which has fundamentally affected our visual memory since the turn of the 20th century, using moving images to create multiple meta-levels of reality.

Scheibitz’s works consistently convey the impression of a hidden, indecipherable message. His mode of influencing human consciousness is to create a visual overload of pictorial and graphic codes. With regards to mk/ULTRA, the emphasis is not on suspicious circumstances or conspiracy theories, but rather on the immediate viewing experience in front of the work that throws the viewer back upon his or her own experience of the world.

 

Installation Views
Thomas Scheibitz – mk/ULTRA – Berlin
Thomas Scheibitz
mk/ULTRA
Installation view, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, September 23–October 29, 2011

Thomas Scheibitz
mk/ULTRA
Installation view, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, September 23–October 29, 2011

Thomas Scheibitz – mk/ULTRA – Berlin
Thomas Scheibitz
mk/ULTRA
Installation view, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, September 23–October 29, 2011

Thomas Scheibitz
mk/ULTRA
Installation view, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, September 23–October 29, 2011

Thomas Scheibitz – mk/ULTRA – Berlin
Thomas Scheibitz
mk/ULTRA
Installation view, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, September 23–October 29, 2011

Thomas Scheibitz
mk/ULTRA
Installation view, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, September 23–October 29, 2011

Thomas Scheibitz – mk/ULTRA – Berlin
Thomas Scheibitz
mk/ULTRA
Installation view, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, September 23–October 29, 2011

Thomas Scheibitz
mk/ULTRA
Installation view, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, September 23–October 29, 2011

Thomas Scheibitz – mk/ULTRA – Berlin
Thomas Scheibitz
mk/ULTRA
Installation view, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, September 23–October 29, 2011

Thomas Scheibitz
mk/ULTRA
Installation view, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, September 23–October 29, 2011

Details
Thomas Scheibitz – mk/ULTRA – Berlin

Thomas Scheibitz
mk/ULTRA
Installation view, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, September 23–October 29, 2011

Thomas Scheibitz – mk/ULTRA – Berlin

Thomas Scheibitz
mk/ULTRA
Installation view, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, September 23–October 29, 2011

Thomas Scheibitz – mk/ULTRA – Berlin

Thomas Scheibitz
mk/ULTRA
Installation view, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, September 23–October 29, 2011

Thomas Scheibitz – mk/ULTRA – Berlin

Thomas Scheibitz
mk/ULTRA
Installation view, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, September 23–October 29, 2011

Thomas Scheibitz – mk/ULTRA – Berlin

Thomas Scheibitz
mk/ULTRA
Installation view, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, September 23–October 29, 2011

Details
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Exhibited Works
Thomas Scheibitz – mk/ULTRA – Berlin
Thomas Scheibitz
Kino, 2011

Thomas Scheibitz
Kino, 2011
Oil, vinyl, pigment marker on canvas
190 × 280 cm
74 7/8 × 110 1/4 inches

Thomas Scheibitz – mk/ULTRA – Berlin
Thomas Scheibitz
Terrasse, 2010/2011

Thomas Scheibitz
Terrasse, 2010/2011
MDF, composite metal
59.5 × 59 × 59 cm
234 1/4 × 23 1/4 × 23 1/4 inches

Thomas Scheibitz – mk/ULTRA – Berlin
Thomas Scheibitz
Capital, 2011

Thomas Scheibitz
Capital, 2011
Paperboard, composite metal
26 × 357 cm
10 1/4 × 140 1/2 inches

Thomas Scheibitz – mk/ULTRA – Berlin
Thomas Scheibitz
Nachricht, 2011

Thomas Scheibitz
Nachricht, 2011
Oil, vinyl, marker pen on canvas
195 × 286 cm
76 3/4 × 112 5/8 inches

Thomas Scheibitz – mk/ULTRA – Berlin
Thomas Scheibitz
If Seven was Nine, 2011

Thomas Scheibitz
If Seven was Nine, 2011
MDF, wood, fabric, neon light, acrylic glass
179.5 × 139.5 × 26 cm
70 3/4 × 55 × 10 1/4 inches

Details
Thomas Scheibitz – mk/ULTRA – Berlin

Thomas Scheibitz
Kino, 2011
Oil, vinyl, pigment marker on canvas
190 × 280 cm
74 7/8 × 110 1/4 inches

Thomas Scheibitz
Kino, 2011
Thomas Scheibitz – mk/ULTRA – Berlin

Thomas Scheibitz
Terrasse, 2010/2011
MDF, composite metal
59.5 × 59 × 59 cm
234 1/4 × 23 1/4 × 23 1/4 inches

Thomas Scheibitz
Terrasse, 2010/2011
Thomas Scheibitz – mk/ULTRA – Berlin

Thomas Scheibitz
Capital, 2011
Paperboard, composite metal
26 × 357 cm
10 1/4 × 140 1/2 inches

Thomas Scheibitz
Capital, 2011
Thomas Scheibitz – mk/ULTRA – Berlin

Thomas Scheibitz
Nachricht, 2011
Oil, vinyl, marker pen on canvas
195 × 286 cm
76 3/4 × 112 5/8 inches

Thomas Scheibitz
Nachricht, 2011
Thomas Scheibitz – mk/ULTRA – Berlin

Thomas Scheibitz
If Seven was Nine, 2011
MDF, wood, fabric, neon light, acrylic glass
179.5 × 139.5 × 26 cm
70 3/4 × 55 × 10 1/4 inches

Thomas Scheibitz
If Seven was Nine, 2011
Details
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Selected Press

Thomas Scheibitz
Flash Art, review by Mark Prince, November–December, 2011

“When I’m lucky I find myself on the verge of invention”
Exberliner, interview by Alicia Reuter, October, 2011