Son of an east German stonemason, Thomas Scheibitz was born in 1968, the year Duchamp died, and is a distinguished conceptual painter and sculptor. The legacy of Duchampian visual indifference is at the heart of his work: scavenging images from high to low culture – a water bottle label is as likely a source as a Michelangelo elbow, he has said recently – he reassembles them in abstract geometric formations of pleated, folded, superimposed planes in shallow space, free of either illusory or psychological depth but with titles that hint at representation: “Landscape at Genoa”, “Apollo Residence”.
Deadpan, frozen stylisation echoes Alex Katz, Warhol, Hollywood. American culture was the forbidden fruit of Scheibitz’s childhood but he is also a German intellectual and his tension between construction and disorder recalls Bauhaus. His new solo show, “about 90 elements/TOD IM DSCHUNGEL” – the disjunction of languages and typefaces is characteristic – plays up this uneasiness. “90 elements” is an imposing, disorientating central painting depicting a pile-up of box-like shapes; the title refers to the periodic table, by which chemical elements are classified, embodying our desire for intelligibility. In contrast, Scheibitz’s random arrangements and unfinished-looking surfaces suggest the wildness – urban and natural – of existence: “death in the jungle”.
Camden Arts Centre’s flood of natural light, high ceilings and neutral grey floors make an ideal setting for these strong, flat canvases and for the large painted sculptures – arrow, arch, star – jokingly placed in frames on neutral white walls here. Scheibitz’s trademark queasy, retro colours – mauve, olive, acrid yellow – also appear to fine advantage. The entire installation evokes our over-stimulated visual reality shattered into shards, circles, cubes, then mockingly put back together again: a cerebral, seductive artifice.
Thomas Scheibitz, Camden Arts Centre, London NW3, to April 20. Tel: +44 (0)20-7472 5500