As if a reminder of the failure of a wall to impose an ideology and divide people, Diane Meyer’s exhibition Berlin, on view through January 25 at Klompching Gallery, is timed to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. During an artist residency in Berlin, the Los Angeles-based artist was struck by the wall’s “ghostlike” presence, a quality she replicates in this series of 43 hand-embroidered photographs made between 2012 and 2017. Ranging from 5½ to 16 inches across, the works are installed in a wall-like formation — top edges aligned — along the gallery walls.
Taken along the wall’s 96-mile path, which cut through the heart of Berlin and encircled West Berlin, isolating it in the middle of East Germany, the images include familiar sites like the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, and Potsdamer Platz, as well as more mundane suburban and rural scenes. Most of the sites she photographed have no visible remnant of the wall. (The current U.S. president’s attempt to erect a 500-mile wall along our 1,954-mile-long southern border makes the German barrier sound dinky by comparison.)
Using thread that is the same color as the underlying image, Meyer embroiders the photos with cross-stitched patterns or blocks. The X-shaped stitch results in a pixelated effect. In most instances, she has embroidered the form of the wall where it actually stood. In some works, for example, a house or buildings are divided top to bottom, their upper portions unobstructed while the lower parts, where the wall would’ve blocked the view, are blurred by the stitching. Sometimes the stitching is barely noticeable as it snakes alongside houses and gardens in the distance. In one image, the embroidered wall is interrupted by a still-standing guard tower. There’s also a section of the actual graffiti-covered wall in Mauer Park, a monument to its own past.
In images with people, the embroidery gives the effect of privacy blur (an effect more pronounced in Meyer’s earlier series using ’70s-era family photos, with only the faces stitched over). At times, Meyer veered from the wall and photographed locations of related significance — the former offices of the Stasi, for example. In those cases, embroidered squares are stitched in seemingly random arrangements on the photos, perhaps suggesting obfuscation and censorship (the exhibition also coincides with the Congressional impeachment hearings), though the artist has also expressed an interest in the fallibility of photography to accurately portray the past.
All of the works are framed with glass backings that allow viewers to see the tangle of threads behind the images — an apt metaphor for the often hairy truths that lie behind allegedly objective photography