With “Fifty Typhoons,” his fourth solo show at this gallery, Alexander Heim is exhibiting a set of small-format mural reliefs and room installations. The sculptural praxis of the London-based artist is rooted in casting and recasting found objects, often industrial products, in synthetic materials. For his 2012 exhibition here, he made sculptures out of found auto parts: Elegantly cut hoods or fenders were transformed into abstract wall objects, while headlights and smaller autobody parts were reworked with clay and polyester resin, metamorphosing into amorphous forms. In 2015, he squeezed clumps of silicone sealant behind panes of industrial glass: a simple gesture, which turned the silicone into both an art object and the support of apparently free-floating glass sheets.
In “Fifty Typhoons,” Heim remains committed to this material aesthetic and to a sculptural practice of the simple gesture. For Towards A Third Attractor, 2019, he’s cut copper water and gas pipes into approximately fifteen-inch pieces and soldered them together with round welding seams, making them tower in the space like bamboo stalks. The central eponymous group of works consists of six small-format works that appear astonishingly painterly but are, in fact, concrete objects that he’s treated with synthetic resin varnish to illusionistic effect. In Nock-Ten, 2019, one perceives archaic characters and abstract figures, but closer observation reveals that the billowing folds are due to actual material depth. Then, the symbolic flips into stunning realism: Heim has cast wrench, hammer, and chisel in concrete and coated the relief with transparent, brownish acrylic. The work is filled with resin, effectively cancelling out its haptic quality, but it is exactly in this way that Heim then dramatically carves out the spatial on a painterly illusionistic plane in Vongfong, Prapiroon, Nepartak, and Hagupit, all works 2018. Their titles correspond to the real names of typhoons, but the exhibition title has a different origin: “Fifty Typhoons” is the translation of the name of the artist’s mother-in-law. However, it says less about the person herself than the biopolitical subtext of how Mother Earth has, in the artist’s own words, “turned her awesome defense mechanism against us.”
Translated from German by Diana Reese.