GALLERY WEEKEND BERLIN 2013 Opening: 26.04.2013, 6 - 9 pm 27.04. - 28.04.2013, 11 am - 7 pm
GEORGE CONDO Paintings & Sculpture 27.04. - 22.06.2013
Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers are pleased to present the third solo exhibition of George Condo in Berlin. The New York artist is showing a selection of the Drawing Paintings, as well as some bronze sculptures created last year.
Condo has been connected with the gallery for almost thirty years now. In February 1984, when he lived for a short time in Cologne, the Monika Sprüth Galerie hosted one of the first solo exhibitions of the artist's career. Today Condo is considered to be one of the pioneers of the international revival of figurative painting. With a sensibility schooled in Pop Art, he single-handedly reintroduced the pictorial language of the Old Masters into the discussion concerning contemporary art. With great gusto and virtuosity, he applied the classic primers, glazes, and drawing techniques of art history to inferior, often absurd subjects. In a project of painterly investigation that was one of its kind, he turned his attention to the religious light of the Baroque and to the iridescent, transitional tones of the Florentine cangiante, to Rembrandt and Frans Hals, to Tiepolo, Caravaggio, and Rubens, to Raphael, Velázquez, Arcimboldo, and Fragonard. What imparts unity to his works is their dystopian, simultaneously empathetic view of people at the end of the twentieth and beginning of the twenty-first centuries, his sense for the absurdity of his existence, and his feeling of dehumanization.
Born in 1957 in New Hampshire, the artist had already at the age of nineteen filled two- to three-hundred sketchbooks, and had painted a large number of completed pictures. Before moving to Cologne, he lived for a short time in Boston, New York, and Los Angeles, abandoned a course of studies in art history, played in a Punk band, and worked in one of Andy Warhol's printshops. He was a close friend not only of Basquiat and Haring, but also of William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg. In 1985 he moved to Paris where, among other things with the help of a certified copyist of the Louvre, he polished his painting techniques in imitation of the Old Masters. Ten years later, he returned to New York, where he still lives today.
The large-format Drawing Paintings shown in the exhibition are the most recent results of his ongoing art-historical investigations. They also constitute a continuation of his Expanded Canvases from the mid-nineteen-eighties. In these new works, Condo does not focus on the visual vocabulary of the Old Masters, but instead on Abstraction, on the lines of de Kooning, the forms and colors of Matisse, Tanguy and Klee, the all-over of Pollock, and – as is unmistakably evident in the central figure of the canvas entitled Figures and Masks – again and again on Picasso. With charcoal, pastel, and acrylic, Condo designs improvisations of human consciousness which not only freshly illuminate the territory between the abstract and the figurative, but also eliminate the difference between drawing and painting. The Drawing Paintings are meditations on the freedom of color and line and on the fact that beauty and horror frequently go hand in hand.
Abstraction is not only a further visual language which Condo appropriates. What is much more the case is that in the Drawing Paintings, abstraction seems to issue a challenge to the figurative elements of his œuvre and to block their impulse to emerge upon the canvas. In such works as Compounded Figures, African Nights, and Day and Night, Condoesque grimaces, clown faces, individual eyes, breasts, and arms are woven into a dense atmosphere of charcoal lines and colored sections. Again and again, bow-tied butlers and nude, lecherously gazing figures make their fragmentary entrances into this play of color and lines – almost as if one were looking at a primal soup which already contains in nuce the entirety of Condo's œuvre. Downtown New York conveys the impression as if a human mass of art-historical hybrids were approaching the viewer at a street intersection. With Blue Nudes, Prescription for the Clinically Normal, and Comic Strip, tableaus of persons with cheerful deformation have been created. In a certain sense, the Drawing Paintings depict psychological landscapes, Condo's mental states, each compressed onto an individual canvas.
Over the course of his career, Condo has turned his attention to a variety of subjects, styles, and media. The five bronze sculptures on display in the exhibition present a further block of works to which he returns again and again. Apparent in Constructed Head, The Philosopher, and Totemic Personage is the procedure of psychological Cubism which he uses, not by combining fragments which come from different perspectives as in Cubism, but by joining fragments of various emotional and psychological states. The Sea Lion and Liquor Store Attendant refer to the manic-depressive melodrama between repulsion and seduction which is familiar from Condo's grotesque portraits. Today the conditio humana seems to the artist to be a conditio idiotica; his works are always part of a political statement. All his figures evince features of ecstasy and madness; they have become caricatures of themselves and laugh in the face of the desolateness of the world. These are damaged beings who nonetheless enjoy themselves thoroughly.
George Condo's œuvre does not derive inspiration from refined, art-historical masochism; his pictures are not quotations, pastiches, or appropriations. One must instead conceive of Condo as a collector of the languages of artistic representation, of languages whose essence he filters out through painting and reinterprets for our era. To this purpose, he systematically destroys familiar pictorial structures and demolishes the stable significatory field of the image. Condo is always concerned as well with the pleasure of painting – and with the question of how it can still be experienced today.
George Condo (born 1957, Concord, USA) lives and works in New York. His extensive retrospective Mental States opended at the New Museum, New York (2010), and subsequently travelled to Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, the Hayward Gallery, London and the Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt (2011-2012). Further solo exhibitions include ones at Le Musée Maillol, Paris (2009),One Hundred Women. Retrospektive, at the Museum der Moderne, Salzburg, which travelled to the Kunsthalle, Bielefeld (both 2005), New York Expression at the Bergen Art Museum (2002), at Le Palais des Congrès, Paris (1995), at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston (1994, 1995), and Le Visage Dans L’Art Contemporain at Le Musée du Luxembourg, Paris, which travelled to Le Musée des Jacobins, Toulouse (1990). Major group shows include, among others, Looking back for the Future at the Kunsthalle Zurich (2012), the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2010, 1995, 1991, 1989, 1988, 1987), the Kunstmuseum Luzern (2008), the Deste Foundation for Contemporary Art, Athens (2007), the Kunstmuseum Bern (2006/2007), the MoMA, New York (1994, 1992), and US Paintings in the 80s at The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (1994).
JOSEPH KOSUTH Insomnia: Assorted, Illuminated, Fixed. 27.04. - 22.06.2013
Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers are delighted to present a major exhibition of works by acclaimed American artist Joseph Kosuth, in his first solo show in Berlin in 20 years. Featuring work dating from 1965 through to today, 'Insomnia: assorted, illuminated, fixed.' will for the first time offer an extensive overview of the artist’s work in neon. This chronicals a nearly 50 year-long investigation of the production and role of language and meaning within art, and an on-going use of neon, a material appropriated in the 1960’s first by Kosuth who considered it a form of ‘public writing’, without fine art associations, and traditionally associated with popular culture.
The exhibition will feature 26 of Kosuth’s neon works, showcasing key early compositions including one of the artist’s first neons Five Fives (to Donald Judd) [orange], (1965), alongside recent works such as elements from his Beckett series (2011). Constructed in a way that actively responds to the gallery’s specific architectural space, the colourful retrospective will be installed across the length of the top floor of the gallery, utilising some never before used areas for display purposes.
An important pioneer of Conceptual Art, Kosuth is credited with initiating appropriation strategies, language based works and the use of photography in the 1960’s. The artist’s investigations into language and perception, and the appropriated use of literature, philosophy as well as psychology characteristically take the form of works in series, a practice that allows capacity for play and reflexivity in direction. The exhibition will include works from the celebrated Freud series (1986-1989) in which Kosuth puts meaningfully into play the psychoanalyst’s texts using wall pieces and installations. Fetishism (Corrected) (1988) consists of an enlarged reproduction of a page proof, the opening of an essay titled in German ‘Fetischismus’, corrected by Freud's hand. Kosuth extricates the corrections, converting them into cobalt blue neon and mounting them together on the wall around the framed proof, suggesting the process by which writing is studied and converted into artifacts, and from artifacts to art. Similar questions of ontology are considered in four works from the well-known Wittgenstein series (1989-1993), illustrating the profound influence of the philosopher on Kosuth’s foundation of thinking, and belief that art should ask questions about itself, as a language engaged in the production of meaning.
Furthermore, the exhibition will feature three elements from the recent Beckett series (2011). Fabricated in warm white neon with the front dipped in black paint, the body of work puts into play fragments from two of Beckett’s writings; the renowned Waiting for Godot and the lesser known Texts for Nothing. The playwright and artist share a significant concern with meaning; while Beckett approaches the question of meaning by investigating its absence, Kosuth approaches meaning as something undeniably present and poses questions about its production, by both artist and viewer.
Joseph Kosuth lives and works in New York and London. He has participated at numerous documentas and Venice Biennales, and his work is included in most museum collections in the United States, Europe, Australia and Asia. Awards include the Brandeis Award (1990), the Frederick Weisman Award (1991), the Venice Biennale Menzione d'Onore (1993), the Chevalier de l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French government (1993) and the Austrian Republic’s Decoration of Honour in Gold (2003). In 1999, in honour of his work on the Rosetta Stone in a monument in Figeac, the French government issued a 3.00-franc postage stamp in Figeac, and in 2001 he received the Laurea Honoris Causa doctorate in Philosophy and Letters from the University of Bologna. In 2012, Kosuth was inducted into the Académie Royale des Sciences, des Lettres et des Beaux-Arts de Belgique.
In 2009, Kosuth’s exhibition entitled ni apparence ni illusion, an installation work throughout the 12th century walls of the orginal Louvre Palace, opened at the Musée du Louvre in Paris and will become a permanent work in 2014. His work on the façade of the Council of State of the Netherlands was unveiled in October 2011 and he is currently working on a permanent work for the four towers of the façade of the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, expected to be completed in 2013. Recent exhibitions include Texts for Nothing (Waiting for-)’ Samuel Beckett in play, at the Australian Center for Contemporary Art, Melbourne (2010) and – in an extended version – at the Haus Konstruktiv in Zurich (2011).
RICHARD ARTSCHWAGER Portraits! 27.04. - 22.06.2013
Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers are delighted to present an exhibition of work by the American artist Richard Artschwager. The show, which travels from the London gallery of Sprüth Magers to Berlin, focuses on a recent series of portraits, which are displayed alongside the sculpture Exclamation Point (Orange) (2010).
One of the most important artists to emerge during the twentieth century, Artschwager’s playful and diverse oeuvre has influenced generations of younger artists by challenging assumptions about perception and the aesthetic, material and spatial experience of art and the everyday. Spanning over forty years, Artschwager’s practice explored the mediums of sculpture, painting and drawing in order to understand the relationship between art and objects, and the environment they inhabit.
Artschwager’s work is typically characterized by playful and provocative slippages between different media, conflating the visual world of images, which can be apprehended but not physically grasped, and the tactile world of objects. This dynamic relationship between pictorial representation and sculptural practices in the artist’s work is evident in his paintings, which provide the focus of the exhibition. While his sculptures are defined as much by coloration and their painterly elements as they are by their forms and materials, Artschwager’s paintings rely on texture and surface to acquire meaning. Artschwager applied traditional artists media including charcoals, acrylics, pastels and paints, to Celotex, a rigid compound board formed from pressed fibers and generally used in construction. Although it has a smooth side, Artschwager executed the image on the texture’s reverse, exploiting the rough surface as an active participant that is essential to the work’s imagery, expression and meaning, and animates the pictorial surface. Artschwager bordered the portraits with heavy, wooden or mirrored frames, propelling his paintings further into the three-dimensional realm.