Berlin-based Anselm Reyle is unabashedly steeped in the formalist traditions of Modernism. Brazenly bucking the figurative impulse of his countrymen, Reyle mines such Modernist tropes as the gestural brushstroke, the monochrome, and the objet trouvé. With recourse to found materials, Day-Glo palettes, and the seductive sheen of the commercial object, Reyle injects this canonical vocabulary with a strategic dose of kitsch. This tension between the sanctified forms of Modernism and the outright celebration of popular taste imbues Reyle's work with a provocative charge. As the artist has quipped: "My parents tried to show me good taste, but I rebelled against it." (A. Reyle, in D. Ebony, "Anselm Reyle: Glittering Entropy," Art in America 99, no.4 (April, 2011), p. 104.)
Reyle's rebellious aesthetic is brilliantly evident in the monochrome foil painting Untitled. Here, Reyle has wrapped a canvas in reflective silver PVC, a malleable, Mylar-like material, which he then shaped, folded, and roughened into a luminous topography of troughs and crests. He then enshrined the bastardized monochrome in a custom Plexiglas case. The genesis of the project was by chance; Reyle happened upon the foil in the studio of a friend. He explains:
"I was very fascinated by this material. The quality-that it was so glossy. I've always liked the fact that you have to do very little to make it look good. In this case, you really have a lot of interesting effects created by almost nothing. All the colours reflect and also it has a very psychedelic effect when you look at it from a close distance. A bit like on an acid trip. The fact that this cheap store foil work is such a big contrast to the expensive acrylic box around it, is another aspect. Without this box, it would have been more trashy, cheap and even more fragile. But when it's inside it gets more serious leaving no doubt that it's a real piece of art."(A. Reyle in interview with A. Tovborg, Copenhagen, Andersen's Contemporary, Anselm Reyle. Valley of the Snake Ladies, May-June 2006.)
While the Plexiglas frame declares the object's status as high art, its purple-tint further intensifies the optical effects of the foil painting. The light dancing off the reflective surface, alternately entrancing and disorienting, appears as a color that can only be described as ultraviolet.
With such a scintillating inflection, Reyle unmoors his monochrome from its historical inheritance and yokes it to a retro-futuristic aesthetic, what Branden Joseph has termed "the future anterior dialectic." (See Brandon W. Joseph, "Future Anterior: History and Speculation in the Work of Angela Bulloch," Grey Room, no. 32 (Summer, 2008), pp. 114-142.) Which is to say, the ultraviolet foil only appears futuristic when combined with the antedated monochrome. The present foil painting pronounces a dual reference to modernism's dictates and its downfall. It asserts Reyle's repudiation of modernism's distinction between decorative and fine art and the artist's ability to harness such divergent practices to spectacular ends.