26.04. – 03.06. 07
Group exhibition with works by Vito Acconci, Richard Artschwager, Chris Burden, Zaha Hadid, Peter Hujar, Yayoi Kusama, Dennis Oppenheim, William Pope.L, Paul Thek
at Arndt & Partner, Zurich
26.04. – 03.06. 07
Works on paper for me have always had an intimate quality, more like reading than other forms of art making. They provide a real glimpse into the mind of the artist at work. In presenting the work of 9 artists from the 1960s to the present, I take a much more expansive view of what constitutes a work on paper. The selection goes far beyond drawings or sketches to include photos by Vito Acconci, Dennis Oppenheim and Peter Hujar, paper constructions by the conceptual architect and artist Zaha Hadid, and encompassing landscapes by Paul Thek and Richard Artschwager, text drawings by Pope.L, abstractions by Yayoi Kusama, and instructions for sculptures by Chris Burden. All in all the works on display provide a snapshot into the means and methods of a group of the most talented artists of their respective generations. A pleasure to behold in and of themselves, these pieces are on a scale more human and accessible than much of today's overblown artistic productions we are habitually bombarded with. It's not about heroics or masterpieces, but about the pleasure to be derived from the connoisseur's appreciation of something special.
Artschwager's drawings from the 60s to present are ghost-like renderings in charcoal on traditional standard sheets of drawing paper. They are usually figurative but not always so, depicting in breathtakingly romantic fashion mundane scenes from the street to generic people engaged in acts as pedestrian as eating and cycling. There is the odd geometric form or shard of concrete along with isolated bits of flames or even something as dismissive as a mouse hole. Regardless of their subject matter, the works are nod to traditional means and methods, drawn as they are in a timeless style and with acute technique, a skill many artists today no longer possess.
Hadid is a forerunner to the quotidian in today's language of contemporary architecture. Before the advent of computers, her notions for building designs for today and the future began as abstractions on canvas and paper with obvious references to Russian constructivism, vorticism and futurism. This was no passing quote from past genres but a knowing absorption of historic art movements whose ambitions clearly pointed beyond the scope of the canvas. Hadid's vision was so complex and light-years ahead of her time that people could not even relate or understand the levels of abstraction, which in her mind must have seemed as plain as daylight. Here she presents a new body of work made specifically for the show that uses paper in a relief-like fashion, resulting in a three dimensional drawing with no marks and a way of turning origami into a hyper progressive form of art and design.
Thek is a throwback to an artist and persona that belongs to another era; he died in 1988 but lived a peripatetic life wandering throughout Europe and the US, never really settling down in one place or another. This restlessness is apparent in the work, which flitted effortlessly from one extreme medium like massive installations to the quaint, rigorous draftsmanship displayed in his large body of paper works. The technical skill exhibited by Thek has an old-master quality about it, reminiscent of architectural plans or scientific illustrations. Yet his beautiful works are always underpinned with a conceptual notion. There are landscapes and icons and a profusion of signs and symbols, all marked by a childlike absorption in the task at hand, and a lightheartedness and humor mixed with the utterly serious intent of documenting the life of an artist who is always at work and constantly searching.
Burden used paper in his body of work, which ranges from crude drawings that serve as preparatory works for his sculptures, to collages of reviews of his prior shows and grids of his cancelled bank checks from the 1970s. Represented here with a jewel of a schematic drawing, is his piece entitled "Samson", which involved the revolving door of the museum the work was exhibited in. Every time a visitor entered the museum, a contraption would cause a beam connected to the revolving door to extend horizontally in both directions, boring into the walls of the institution and thereby literally undermining the structural integrity of the museum! A dangerous but profound work seen here in a very workman-like execution, which makes the piece seem ready for casual application in a construction site.
Hujar's works recall the photographic language of Diane Arbus; his pictures have the same existential tone but extend a cynical, perverse look on mankind. His works are sublime, dark and hazy but loving and touching in a way that is characteristic of certain strands in vintage photography like Strand and Stieglitz. His legendary book "Portraits in Life and Death" is a unique achievement, bringing together scenes of melancholy and beauty, sadness and hope in a single bound collection. Another wonderful publication, "Animals and Nudes", juxtaposes forms in a disarming, down-to-earth way that belies his impressive technical and compositional skills. The animals are human in the plight of their everyday existence, and the humans animal-like, reduced as they are to a pre-societal state. Photographs are seen here for what they basically are: mechanically produced works on paper, which accounts perhaps for the derisive attitudes to photography as stand-alone art medium in the past.
Pope.L is a concrete poet and performance artist in the tradition of Acconci. His "Skin Set Drawings" cut the edge of identity politics in an utterly non-didactic and humorous way. They confront our innermost racist fears and prejudices, a topic so painfully present that the works almost acquire the status of evidence, documentary fragments of a culture so high-strung and torn with mistrust that it is in danger of imploding and mass destructing. The work of Pope.L is visceral in its feeling, similar in its use of materials to Dieter Roth and in its political acumen comparable to the work of African-American prankster David Hammonds. The precursor of both Hammonds and Pope.L is none other than Duchamp and his cutting use of allusions and underlying symbolisms that address issues of and concepts on the surface and not too far beneath it of the everyday.