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Almine Rech Gallery Bruxelles: AYAN FARAH | JOEL SHAPIRO | PIERO GOLIA - 9 Oct 2014 to 12 Nov 2014

Current Exhibition

9 Oct 2014 to 12 Nov 2014

Almine Rech Gallery, Bruxelles
20 Rue de l’Abbaye
B - 1050
T: +32 32 26 485 684
F: +32 26 484 484

09.10 — 12.11.14 / BRUSSELS

Artists in this exhibition: Ayan Farah, Joel Shapiro, Piero Golia

09.10 — 12.11.14 / BRUSSELS

Everyone knows what a painting is: paint, pigment or colour applied to a surface. But in Ayan Farah’s hands a painting is much more than just that. In her work that surface often reacts to and records its exposure to light or it might involve a series of fabrics stitched together in a variety of roughly geometrical patterns. And while her paintings are not scientific records, often they are nevertheless a record of the chemistry and environmental conditions of a particular place over a particular time. Ayan Farah’s artworks evade conventional definitions.

Eldfell (2011) for example consists of the polyester–cotton lining of a sleeping bag, buried for six months at the foot of the Icelandic volcano that gives the work its title. The ash- and seemingly water-stained fabric seems very literally to have absorbed a part of the landscape. Rather than looking like the volcano, it is the volcano. It’s formally minimal, but minerally rich. This sleeping-bag liner provides a record of nature’s, rather than a human’s, sweat. If a place could keep a diary, you feel, it might look something like this.

Other works have featured cotton sheets attached to windows and bleached by the sun and carpets abandoned to the elements in specific locations for a fixed period of time. Yet other fabrics (always very carefully selected for their material qualities, through an extensive process of trial and error) are stained by particular muds or clays, from the Dead Sea for example, as in Eylon (2014). Some are treated with a mixture of dyes and chemicals (organic and synthetic) and then exposed to a UV sun-lamp. They can sometimes look like a series of Turin Shrouds, albeit recording the magic of a place rather than a person. Although that means also, that Farah’s works are also records of the impact of people on place.

A current series of works, for example, incorporates rainwater collected from various places around the world and mixed with Farah’s usual array of pigments, muds and dyes before being applied to the support. To you and I there might not be any perceptible (as opposed to chemical) difference in the rainwater collected from Abu Dhabi and Doha, after the respective inhabitants of these places had been asked to pray for rain, and the rainwater collected from China, a country that frequently uses cloud seeding (changing the chemical conditions of a cloud in order to encourage ice crystal formation) to modify its weather. But these works contain within their physical selves a record, not just of the rain from various places, but of people’s attitude to, conception of and relationship with the weather around the world. In some places rain is something to pray for (under God’s control), in others rain can be manufactured (under human control) and perhaps, in some places, rain is simply something for whose arrival you can only wait (under no one’s control).

As much as there is the kind of wild sense in Farah’s work, of an artist abandoning their authorial responsibilities and letting nature and chance take over (some works might incorporate birdshit or moth holes), it is also a process that she very much controls, perhaps most obviously in works in which various pieces of fabric, treated with terracotta, clay or mud solutions (for example), are cut-up and then stitched together again.Ultimately, Farah’s artworks offer up objects – the material artworks – that we like to think of as permanent and enduring, and reveal them to be impermanent and unenduring (via processes that leave them weathered, bleached and faded, sometimes to the point of translucency). At the same time things that we like to think of as fleeting – time, the weather, environmental conditions, etc – are rendered permanent on that very weathered surface. This is the tension that lies at the heart of Ayan’s works. “I’ve always thought of them as part of an environment,” she says, “not like sculptures but like something that loses physical presence.”

Perhaps this is something in which Farah is interested for more than simple matters of curiosity. Born in Sharjah, of Somali origin, she grew up largely in Sweden, currently resides in London and travels a lot. The works are how they are – on fabric – in part because that allows them to be portable. Yet wherever you are, however apparently static or fixed the situation, her work seems to say, even when you move away, you still take part of that encounter with you.

Ayan Farah was born in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, to Somali parents and grew up in Stockholm, Sweden. She received a BA in Fashion Design from Middlesex University (2003), a Postgraduate Degree from Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design (2006), followed by an MA in Painting from the Royal College of Art, London (2012). Recent exhibitions include Le musée d’une nuit (script for leaving traces), David Roberts Art Foundation, Fondation Hippocrène, Paris (2014); PROXIMA, Museo Británico Americano, Mexico City (2014); The Figure in the Carpet, Bugada & Cargnel, Paris (2014); Xtraction, The Hole, New York (2013); Alchemy, The Arts Club, London (2013); Wanderlust, Contemporary Art Society, London (2013); Girlfriend material, The Standard, Los Angeles (2013); Ayan Farah, Vigo Gallery, London (2012). She was recently awarded the Eilean Shona Residency in Scotland and in 2012-2013 was artist in residence at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm. She lives and works in London, U.K.

Mark Rappolt

09.10 — 12.11.14 / BRUSSELS

Inspired by minimalism and his stay in India as a volunteer with the American Peace Corps, Joel Shapiro's style took on a more radical form in the 1970s, moving towards bronze anthropomorphic sculptures that defy the laws of gravity. Two central themes define Shapiro's work: the scale of objects and gravity. In his more recent series, Joel Shapiro has created structures that explore the imbalance and disintegration of material. His latest works on show at Almine Rech Gallery Brussels alternate between movable and fixed compositions, wood arrangements and chromatic games, whether placed against a wall or suspended in the air.

Joel Shapiro was born in New York in 1941. His work has been shown in numerous international exhibitions, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1976); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1985); Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2001); and the Musée d'Orsay, Paris (2005). His work is included in several public collections such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Tate Gallery, London; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Shapiro currently lives and works in New York.

For further information please contact Laure Decock:


09.10 — 12.11.14 / Brussels

"Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists.
They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach."
—Sol Lewitt, “Sentences on Conceptual Art,” Art-Language, 1969

The healthy doubt you feel about any new artist unexhibited in your city is welcome. Faith requires doubt. Boetti declared the artist in-between a shaman and a showman. With the levity of astonished delight and the gravity of spiritual action, the artist bridges this gap through the metamorphosis of material into meaning. As a shaman channels mystical powers, all results are infused with their magic, simple objects transform into relics infused with the significance of the ritual.

On evidence here are a few relics.

At the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, the artist Piero Golia carved from foam a one-to-one replica of George Washington’s nose from the face of Mt. Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota, a colossal unfinished 60-foot tall sculpture by Gutzon Borglum and son of four popular American president’s busts made between 1925 and 1941. The nose takes up 21-feet.

Like the Dakota original, Golia hand-carved his Washington’s nose, the performance of which played out on the Hammer’s terrace over the course of their biennial. This carving makes the first of the three acts in the artist’s opera, The Comedy of Craft.

The second act, to be played out during the Prospect biennial in New Orleans will involve the making of a mold from the carving, whilst the third act involves the pouring of bronze to solidify the series in a final sublime action. All three acts to be done in public as a performance. The subtle and unsubtle import of hand-craft as well as political stagecraft are deftly alluded to, but their exact import allusively elusive. The institutions the artist moves through become stages to be overcome, a theatre is just a building and a museum an expensive warehouse if it's dull thingness is not overthrown by the spell cast by the artists who move across them.

Here we have an intermission between acts one and two.

The monochrome paintings on view are relics leftover from the carving of Washington’s nose. Preserved under a protective coating, the foam relics will always bear the mark of the process of their creation, the process of material being transformed into meaning. These objects surge with incidental beauty, some soft comment on modernist purity, a wash of pure color like an a minimalist master, the prison of marble that Renaissance sculptures had to escape to come into their polished finality. Here they are made not with composition but the rigorous, methodological following of a premise made with a leap, made by the artist and us, together.

Andrew Berardini

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