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Dirk Skreber (B. 1961)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Dirk Skreber (B. 1961)

Killer Wheels 3.0

Dirk Skreber (B. 1961)
Killer Wheels 3.0
oil on vinyl
47¼ x 71in (120 x 180.3cm.)
Painted in 2007
Private Collection, New York.
K. Grässlin et al., Dirk Skreber: Blutgeschwindigkeit, exh. cat., Baden-Baden, 2008 (illustrated in colour, pp. 154-55).
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Lot Essay

Killer Wheels 3.0 was created in 2007, the year that Dirk Skreber took his explorations of catastrophe into a new painterly direction, focussing on scenes showing constellations of debris from an unseen crash hurtling from the canvas and towards the viewer. This marks a contrast to the oblique violence that underpinned some of his earlier works, which was kept off the canvas. Here, the disaster is unfolding before our very eyes, yet it appears to be frozen, captured in an uncanny stasis at its very peak. The danger of the car and in particular of motor sports is emblazoned across the canvas, and is evoked more directly in related pictures whose titles mention Art Arfons. A legendary dragster driver, Arfons lived to old age having suffered only minor injuries during his career, yet had tragically been involved in an accident in which three people were killed.

Using these flying wheels, Skreber has created a vividly energetic image that is both striking and conceptually accomplished in its contribution to the dialogue surrounding painting itself. Over recent decades, the death of figurative painting has been proclaimed again and again; Skreber is one of several artists who have developed sophisticated strategies in order to navigate the supposed obsolescence of the medium in the modern, image-saturated age in which we live. In Killer Wheels 3.0, Skreber has clearly taken an artificial moment, a fleeting instance of incredible dynamism, and has shown it on the two-dimensional canvas in such a way that the viewer's attention is necessarily brought to the very stillness of the object. The lack of danger to the viewer is emphasised, the gap between the chaos of the scene and the more tranquil sphere of the viewer, resulting in the process that Skreber himself refers to as 'detoxification.' In this sense, Skreber appears to be exploring territory similar to that of predecessors such as Roy Lichtenstein, Gerhard Richter and Mark Tansey, whose paintings have often prised open the suspension of disbelief invoked by the process of image-making. However, where those artists used painstaking, detached and often inscrutable techniques to explore the artistic process and highlight the gap between, say, photography and painting, Skreber has rendered the motif in Killer Wheels 3.0 with an intense dynamism that complements the subject. While the gestural brushwork that articulates much of the canvas forces the viewer's attention to the surface, to the painting's two-dimensionality, it also makes the picture a zone of intense activity, of transformation.

And it is transformation that is the key in Skreber's choice of subject matter. In his images of debris flying through the air, deliberately devoid of any chassis or narrative clues relating to the events depicted and instead consisting only of wheels, axles and springs against a desert-like background, Skreber captures the disaster at its apogee, before the dust has had time to settle, when everything is up in the air. From these crucial, fictionalised moments onwards, it is clear that nothing can ever be the same again. There is an implied violence, implied fatalities, implied consequences, yet all of that will necessarily happen next. In this sense, Killer Wheels 3.0 is saturated with implied potential. 'It's the twilight zone that interests me about catastrophes,' Skreber has explained. 'The twilight zone into which everything and everyone is plunged. Basically, I am fascinated by the release of energy or the transformation. Catastrophes are often pure physics and anything that leaves such devastating traces behind is a sudden surge of energy which often breaks free in an unpredictable direction' (Skreber, quoted in A. Shaw, 'Brooklyn Crash', pp. 151-56, K. Grässlin et al., Dirk Skreber: Blutgeschwindigkeit, exh. cat., Baden-Baden, 2008, p. 151).

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