Jan Kaps, Cologne
Albert Leo Peil
Scene II08 June – 27 August 2022
Jan Kaps is pleased to present Scene II, an extension of Scene I and the second exhibition of work by Albert Leo Peil (1946–2019) in the gallery, presented in an adapted architecture. This is the first time his embossed copper works are being shown to the public. Complimenting his lifelong drawing practice, the artist’s works on copper are a continuation of his engagement with issues of identity construction, queerness and discourse on gender, characterised by a strong undercurrent of sci-fi and metaphysical imagery.
Scene II focuses on a selection of works of varying dimensions from the seventies and eighties, Peil’s obsessive attention to detail once again making an appearance in the meticulously wrought surfaces of the copper, that draw associations to printmaking. Each piece is worked recto verso and typically populated by idealised figures both solitary and within a larger narrative structure, clothed in stately robes or completely nude, embedded in planes of copper too either scrupulously embossed or left void.
Peil translates classical painting compositions into the copper medium, often enclosing his subjects in an elaborate frame that becomes part of the larger work. The artist draws from a variety of sources, from historical individuals to icons of popular culture which are abstracted but feed into his characteristic manner of portraying figures as carriers of social signifiers. Defying chronological and historical classification, Peil also combines ancient figures in opulent robes with sci-fi headdresses and space suits set against a background of orange-gold copper. This materiality coupled with the varying dimensions of the works, ranging from large scrolls to pieces no larger than the palm of one’s hand bring to mind medieval icons which were seen as windows into the spiritual world, portable versions of which the devout carried on their person.
The use of radiating lines in the background of Gräfin Veruschka von Lehndorf further alludes to a transcendence into another realm. Calling to mind thinker José Esteban Muñoz, by adopting publicly circulating images from a hegemonic culture, remixing, reshaping and repeatedly realigning them, Peil questions the normalisation and disciplining of desire and explores his own, queer way of being in the world. The artist's elaborations for a queer aesthetic utopia can also be read as a way of pointing beyond the limits of the present in a heteronormative public sphere.
The question of identity and belonging is brought to the forefront, the celestial appearance of the subjects elevating them from temporal and corporeal confines and thus norms of gender and gender expression. Peil imagines a future that is already present in the universe of his works, where queer life and politics are presented as complex yet within reach.
Born in 1946 in Berlin, Albert Leo Peil moved to the small Franconian town of Lauf an der Pegnitz and resided there until his death in 2019. With little formal arts training, save for two semesters at the Nuremberg Academy of Fine Arts under the tutelage of abstract painter Ernst Weil, Peil instead completed an apprenticeship as a decorator and earned his living outside the sphere of the arts.