June 10 – August 28, 2021
We are very pleased to present the first solo exhibition of artist Milen Till in our Vienna gallery space. Under the title Vermessen, Till sets out on a completely subjective classification of artistic icons with the help of objective equipment and methodology. He takes measurements of famous works, big names, influential role models, and important artists.
For Till, art history is one big treasure trove. Unabashedly and without shyness, he falls back on fixed pieces of past epochs and reinterprets them in a playful way. He confidently enters into a dialogue with his idols and questions the cult of genius of the 20th century.
For his exhibition Vermessen, he uses an unusual tool. Inspired by the Munich folk comedian Karl Valentin, Till “measures” art history with a folding ruler. While Valentin, the Dadaist language artist and trained carpenter, used the collapsible measuring sticks as props for his sketches, in Till’s art they become a versatile design tool.
The folding rulers are printed, painted, shortened, collaged or freely arranged in space. Tailored to the height of artist friends and role models, they are transformed into personalized representatives that populate the exhibition spaces. Thus, in addition to Karl Valentin himself, Kazimir Malevich and Sigmar Polke are also present.
In addition to these people, Till devotes himself to works: he measures the art of the 20th century—from Piet Mondrian to Josef Albers to Agnes Martin or Barnett Newman. He applies different colored folding rulers to wooden panels and encounters the geometric structures of abstract painting with Dadaist humor. The folding ruler homages always bear Till’s own artistic signature. Shapes are sometimes distorted, colors adapted and ambiguous, comments integrated.
With his playful reinterpretations, Till takes aim at the art scene of the last century, which was dominated by the cult of genius and exuberant masculinity. With wit and charm he shakes the throne of the painter princes. He questions the powerful gesture of large formats, the unbroken significance of great names and the special recognizability of their works. Through the use of folding rulers, the exaggerated works of art become a manifesto against the sacralization of painting and for an approach of art to life. The unconstrained appropriation of existing styles and forms of expression is directed—consciously or unconsciously—against the exaggerated importance of authorship and the cult of personality in art.
This also includes the repeatedly established reference to his long-time teacher and mentor Gregor Hildebrandt. As a “master student,” Till not only follows in the footsteps of the former carpenter Karl Valentin, but also in those of his teacher. In a productive and stubborn way, he makes use of his love of detail, his creative use of unusual design tools, and his minimalist aesthetic. For example, he provides a photograph showing Karl Valentin surveying the Krone circus with a real folding ruler. For another work, he arranges the folding yardsticks in a display case. Arranged correctly, they produce another famous image of a folding ruler, Sigmar Polke’s Folding Ruler Palm Tree.
In Milen Till’s art, there are no limits to the play with models, inspirations, and cross-references. His unpretentious approach attempts to take a new look at the art of past eras and proposes a humorous alternative to the existing cult of genius.
Milen Till was born in Munich in 1984. After an initial grounding in the graffiti scene, he founded the DJ duo Kill the Tills together with his brother Amédée, which was a fixture in the techno and club scene. Since 2016, he has been studying with Gregor Hildebrandt at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. His work has been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including Galerie Ruttkowski, Cologne; Galerie Klüser, Munich; Baumwollspinnerei Leipzig; Kunstverein Heppenheim; Galerie Suzanne Tarasieve, Paris; Salon Hansa at König Galerie, Berlin; and the Romanian Cultural Institutes in Berlin and Paris.