Caution is the care we take to avoid the worst fates. Stand at the end of any subway platform and behold: two yellow lines stretch out into the distance, demarcating the edges between safety and certain death. Warnings without language are visual manifestations of the danger itself, such as the inexplicable shadow that presaged Father Brennan’s demise in The Omen (1976), or the photographs of Alaska’s vanishing McCall Glacier on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Change Indicators website. Lukas Quietzsch’s first exhibition in New York, aptly titled “Parallel Warnings in Simple Arrangements,” advises us to proceed with caution and take everything as a sign.
The seven paintings in this show were produced over the past two years by the artist in his Berlin home studio. The surfaces are primed in a swirling pattern with a chalky mixture. Next, colors are applied with thin layers of gouache and then repeatedly washed out, producing an ethereal, undulated-staining effect. Delicate seams are sewn into the canvases, imposing a near-invisible architecture within the chromatic psychedelia that is more felt than seen. Quietzsch’s sutures are the closest thing to a straight line in most of the compositions, yet they still wobble off (or back on?) course, calling the most attention to themselves at four-way intersections: A subtle reminder to look both ways before crossing the gallery.
Geometric doppelgängers dubiously appear within every work in the show, pushing the viewer to draw connections across physical space. The painting on Ramiken’s east wall, Die nicht integrierten Persönlichkeitsanteile meiner Eltern (diesen meine Ängste hinzugefügt und die Gedankengänge angepasst) (The Not Integrated Personality Traits of My Parents [My Fears Added to Them and the Thought Processes Adapted]), 2021, provides multiple exit strategies for the faint of heart. You can either follow the ladder of cubicles straight up and off the canvas’s top edge and call it heaven; or descend the staircase of seams, deep into the picture’s rusty ether.
Figure and ground interactions flip invariably within these multiperspectival tableaux, unleashing a deluge of associative possibilities, as cloud gazing or reading tea leaves do. It’s natural to be skeptical of that which is overtly suggestive yet defiantly vague—like the sympathetic magic of a curbside psychic, “Jesus toast,” or most abstract paintings—but Quietzsch earns our trust by providing pathways to navigate the rapidly shifting temporalities and conditions of his imagined worlds, and perhaps our own. It’s all about the journey, man.