Review | Florian Krewer
Review | Florian Krewer's ride or fly

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Review | Florian Krewer's ride or fly

German artist Florian Krewer studied for six years at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf under figurative painter Peter Doig, and it shows. Krewer is like the Adult Swim version of his mentor.

Doig drew from a variety of found imagery, from Friday the 13th to Japanese ski brochures, to create often lonesome, uncanny narratives with a tart palette. If Doig can be sour, Krewer is corrosive; tough to say whether his colours would merely make your teeth fall out or actually scald you.

"Krewer is like the Adult Swim version of his mentor"

Case in point: a work in his second solo show at Michael Werner, London, ride of fly, sees a boy on a bike cycling towards what appears to be a wildfire, against an orange beyond vivid – searing, in fact, especially at scale. An orange of WARNING: HAZARDOUS CHEMICALS or of viscous E-numbers.

This work hangs opposite 'pride' – note Krewer’s preference for the lowercase: ironic, diminutive titles equal to their subjects. Again, a lone, loitering male figure sits wearing a crown, sitting amongst a hail of blue and black birds stamped on blood orange sky. His orifice eyes look angry – see him up close, and he is angrier still, compulsive layers of painting making his face more of a cliff face.

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Florian Krewer. “pride”, 2021. Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, New York and London

"Krewer is corrosive; tough to say whether his colours would merely make your teeth fall out or actually scald you"

The birds are either too close or the man-child king too calm, brooding. A thought about Alfred Hitchcock’s adaptation of The Birds, about his infamous abuse of actor Tippi Hedren and about toxic masculinity more broadly is forming, but it’s quite difficult to think with the massive, lime-green analingus happening out the corner of my eye in the gallery’s next room.

Would you believe me when I said that despite all this aggression and NSFW snapshots, it’s all a bit, well, cute? And perhaps, in part, because of the exhibition’s confrontational sexuality – like teenage boys drawing phalluses in textbook margins. I find that In Your Face is very rarely In Your Face.

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Florian Krewer. “ursa major”, 2021. Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, New York and London

Of course, Krewer’s work is gratuitous, and it’s the excessiveness that gives it its power. But an excess of what? Hard to say. Powerlessness meets macho posturing, cuteness cuts through toxicity and these strange ambivalences follow you home. Still, rather a nagging feeling than one of the artist’s lonely men.

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