His practice across all these forms is connected by an interrogation of the formal language of modernism, at its most familiar in the tropes of the monochrome and the grid. It is remarkable that it is as much through his almost classical works of painting and sculpture as through his spatial and architectural installations and interventions that his conceptual critique is developed. Zobernig unfolds the structures of art from the inside.
Since 1997, when as part of his participation in Documenta X in Kassel, Zobernig articulated the central space of the documenta-Halle by means of floor to ceiling screens, the formal and conceptual device of the screen has been one consistent thread running through his diverse practice and across the various media of his work. Whether fabricated in jute, reflective or transparent foil and used as sculptures for a gallery show (Meyer Kainer Gallery, Vienna 1998), or in the form of Chroma-key fabrics stretched onto aluminium supports and hung around the walls of a predominantly white auditorium-like installation (Kunstverein Munich, 1999), Zobernig’s screens have, since the late 1990s, been a key critical device through which he negotiates the relationship between painting, video, sculpture and architectural intervention.
In this most recent series of paintings the importance and complexity of the conceptual relationship of painting to screen breaks new ground. The surfaces of the works, each 2 metres square, are made up of tesserae which recall the pixels of low resolution 1980s video screens. Zobernig uses the taping and masking technique familiar from many of his recent series of paintings, from the formal grid paintings of the early 2000s to the more gestural broken grids and ‘spaghetti’ paintings of recent years, but in these works the tape used is broader, and cut, a little roughly, by hand. Layers of paint, starting in white and moving through the Chroma-key daylight colours follow, and patterns of tape are removed as the layers are built. Words and letters swim into focus and fragment again. VIDEO, PAINTING, LOOK; these paintings are, as Zobernig jokes, his new videos. In their shimmering texts, their digital palettes, their coarse pixellation, they declare their relationship to the moving image in a way which is at once explicit and playfully elusive.