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Sebastian Maas

May 29 - July 3, 2020

Contrast, as a distinct and powerful phenomenon of esthetic intuition, is a decisive moment in the new works of Sebastian Maas. In addition to formal aspects, Maas is above all concerned with an esthetically oriented act of self-reassurance, expressed in the intensity of inner contrasts that can be directly experienced. Significant for the artist in this context is the constant compulsion requiring us to always align our inside world very strongly to new impulses. At a highly emotional time like this, extreme contrasts emerge. […] It is exactly these contrasts, and their high intensity, that interest me, and I consider them worthy of depiction (Sebastian Maas, 2020).


The source of this observation is a reality of life drastically changed by the current pandemic events, and which Maas explores in depth with a precise, phenomenological eye in his works. Two spheres of everyday life, which directly showcase the global state of emergency, acted as models for the artist: the supermarket, as an overabundant food pantry, inexhaustible horn of plenty and sacred temple of the “consumer society”, and the media, as disavowed producers of images, by whose actions the question of truth(s) is sparked.


In the summer of last year, Maas had already began to grapple intensively with the perceptual phenomena coming into play in optically standardized supermarkets: starting with the act of shopping – the basis for a randomly determined composition – to the unconsciously arranged still lifes on the conveyor belts that give tangible form to social norms and conventions, right through to seemingly surreal goods and consumer esthetics suitable for the masses, which are embedded in an environment characterized by a complete arbitrariness – free of any individualism and “true” culture. Works were created, such as the colossal Clean Cat (2020), crossing the boundaries between genres and making it difficult for the viewer to withdraw from. Huge and three-dimensional, robbed of sharply defined contours, and bringing home our own materiality, the work contrasts those elements that determine the esthetics of the products acting as models. What was once a (sales-)stimulating effect turns into something almost threatening, feeding on the suddenly overwhelming intrinsic effect of color, shape and material.


With the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 and the historically unique “shutdown” of public life that went with it, the supermarket advanced to what was, for the time being, the last exciting meeting place. Irrational panic buying, empty shelves, overflowing shopping carts, open duels in the aisles and at the checkouts – it was here that supply, but also health questions came to light significantly. At the same time, with the first oppressive images from Italian intensive care units and funeral homes, the media airwaves made sure that the virus, invisible to the human eye, was given an immediate presence. In his iconic work Seite 12 (Page 12) (2020), Maas expresses the pivotal moment of this experience in an unprecedented way. With frightening precision and through the means of collage, the artist arranges the unsettling contrasts that, for him, were examples that significantly defined the awareness of the new threat. In a direct and authentic way, his works thus provide an account of an omnipresent uncertainty and the signs of paralysis that characterize this moment in recent history decisively. They are ZEITZEUGEN, contemporary witnesses that oscillate between a sober documentation of the pandemic events and the gag reflexes of a sated surplus consumer society of the highest degree, which repeatedly attempts to engorge itself with its own vomit in the continuing mantra of its own despair.

Sebastian Maas (born in Aachen in 1984) lives and works in Munich and Berlin. After graduating in Biology and Neurosciences from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich, Maas studied Painting and Graphics with Professor Karin Kneffel at Munich’s Academy of Fine Arts. In 2020, he gained his diploma, already having been honored as a “Meisterschüler” by Karin Kneffel the year before. In addition to numerous exhibitions in different galleries, his works were also shown in the group exhibition “Boxenstopp” of the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München (Munich prints and drawing museum) in the Pinakothek der Moderne in 2017.


29.05. - 03.07.2020

Türkenstr. 32, 80335 Munich

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