Monday, December 07, 2009

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Jake & Dinos Chapman @CFA Berlin

In their recent work Jake & Dinos Chapman replicate the most important sculptures, installations
and occurrences from their joint career - in miniature format in cardboard and poster
paint. From “Fuckfaces” to “Sex”, from “Uebermensch” to “Little Death Machines” they subsequently
deliver the primarily not existing models of their main works. In cardboard they also
reconstruct the warehouse fire of the shipping company Momart, in which the first version of
their installation “Hell” was destroyed. Thus the Chapmans execute a double somersault in
rebuilding inexistent models of former realised sculptures. “Shitrospective” pre-empts the
Museum retrospective in a format reflective of the crisis and production costs.
Interestingly, it becomes apparent to the observer through the sketch-like laconic execution,
the level of iconic quality the most important works by the Chapmans have meanwhile achieved.
Here the absence of the demand for perfection lends the sculptures a particular charm.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Monday, November 09, 2009

Boeken die je gelezen moet hebben

Sorry people this post is in Dutch because i want to promote two Dutch books about Berlin.

Jurriaan Benschop: wonen tussen de anderen

Rob Savelberg: Berlijn beweegt.

Doe jezelf een plezier zou ik zeggen!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

John von Bergen @ Lena Brüning Berlin

In 13th Century Pisa, Count Ugolino Della Gherardesca was thought of as a traitor to Pisa, and sentenced to death through starvation with his children and grandchildren. Years later Dante described in his famous Inferno an Ugolino who was in many ways a caricature of the real man, alluding to his temptation to eat his own children in this seminal line: "Poscia, più che ’l dolor, poté ’l digiuno" (“Then hunger prevailed over grief”). This has lead to centuries of artists revisiting this cannibalistic mystery, from writers such as Seamus Heaney and Jorge Luis Borges, to sculptors such as Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux and Rodin.

But in 2002 a group of scientists in Italy (led by Francesco Mallegni) claimed to have examined the remains of the real Count Ugolino, his two sons, and two grandsons. After conducting DNA testing, they argued no such cannibalistic acts could have occurred (especially as Ugolino had died at an old age, and with teeth in no condition for eating flesh). Yet Mallegni's findings were soon disputed by other scientists as to their authenticity, arguing the remains may NOT have been Ugolino and his kin. So the mystery still remains...

2009 continues with an interest in Dante, where the leading Google result for "Dante's Inferno" brings us to the site for a new video game released this year by Visceral Games (with the tagline: "Go To Hell"). The Institute for Cultural Inquiry in Berlin is hosting a seminar series titled "Metamorphosing Dante". And also in Berlin, John von Bergen will present one sculpture titled "Ugolino" for his third solo show at Galerie Lena Brüning.

For his sculpture, von Bergen replaces the human form with what first appear as strangely twisted and morphed machine parts, which upon closer inspection reveal themselves as transformed casts of a table-saw. First appearing in violent intertwinement, they begin to dilapidate into a larger abstract structure. It has been considered that during the time of Dante's rivaling Italy, the real Ugolino served Inferno as a suggestive metaphor for his treasonable actions in Pisa. And yet when considering other artistic interpretations of this story over time, mythology has weighed in with far greater influence than what was a plausible outcome for him and his family. But the humanistic element in von Bergen's Ugolino has dissolved into a representation of another kind of fiction, where reality does not attempt to replace myth, but rather myth is replaced by a less tangible absurdity.

In "SOOTO hungry" John von Bergen will also present works from a new series of pencil drawings that relate closely to the sculpture as transformative structures torn between the abstract and the representational. They drift towards an ambiguous play between the natural and the imagined, by a process that blends detailed renderings of photographed objects with the process of simple abstract marks and gestures. As with the sculpture, the realization of a drawn image becomes the residue of real, and we are left with an instant memory of an incomplete form. As the art historian Ludwig Seyfarth has noted: "In both his drawings and sculptural work is a recognizable interest in exploring, where the utilization of unusual materials blend in flowing transition from the apparent towards inventive, idiosyncratic worlds."

John von Bergen is an American artist who studied at The School of Visual Arts in New York, and moved to Berlin in 2003. Since this time he has exhibited in various museums, galleries, and art fairs throughout Europe, as well as lecturing in Düsseldorf, Dresden, Berlin, and New York. In March 2009 he was invited to present a project for The Sächsisches Staatsministerium für Wissenschaft und Kunst in Dresden, and is currently participating in the group exhibition "Octet" at The Pera Museum in Istanbul. In January 2010 von Bergen will present a solo exhibition at Smack Mellon in Brooklyn, New York. He is a 2009-2010 Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant recipient.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Friday, October 09, 2009

Armen Eloyan, Timothy Taylor Gallery, London

Reviewed by Charles Darwent

As self-portraits go, Armen Eloyan's Untitled (Painter) is a bit of an oddity, surpassed in the weirdness stakes only by Untitled (Painter II).

In the first, the 40-something Armenian depicts himself as a log, sporting natty red shoes and propped up against a wall fast asleep, palette and brushes on the floor beside him. In the second, the alter-log is at work on a canvas, but looks surprised to find that a wedge has been hacked from the back of his head. If Armen is trying to tell us something about life as an artist, his take on the subject does not seem entirely upbeat.

Cartoons have a venerable history in contemporary art – think Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons – but Armen's cast of characters feels different from these. Lichtenstein and the rest were playing high-art-low-art games with their "whams!" and their Mickey Mice. Armen, by contrast, is inventing rather than appropriating, and although his biggest influence is clearly Philip Guston, his logs and potatoes and tomatoes and books smack oddly of Chagall: bit-players from a Mitteleuropa folklore, down-market versions of wolves and pigs and little girls in red capes.

If Armen's characters have one thing in common, it is their air of jaunty cruelty. His Untitled (Potato) wears the stock cartoon-zany expression of crossed eyes and lolling tongue, but has hacked off one of his Mr Potato Head arms with a carving knife and taken a slice, à la Van Gogh, out of his own tuberous bonce. The titular hero of Untitled (Tomato as a Cook) is as cheerily self-destructive as he sounds. Self-abuse of one kind or another is a recurrent theme in Armen's painted fairy tales. Several characters appear to be masturbating, most insistently the case of the log in Untitled (Pink Pinocchio) who is touching a strategically placed twig in what can only be described as an inappropriate manner. Another log, in watercolour this time, has a stick up what would, in other circumstances, be his arse.

And what is this all about? Well, black humour isn't the only thing that Armen's pictures share. The other is the quality of their painting. The palette and brushes in Untitled (Painter) are in deep impasto, standing proud of the canvas so as to be both representations of themselves and demonstrations of what they can do. Like Armen's self-cooking tomatoes and self-slicing potatoes, they elide cause and effect, the maker and the made. In their throwaway way, they are deeply clever and accomplished and they want you to know it. To put it another way, Armen's pictures are Absurd with a capital "A", squandering their talents on what looks like childish nonsense but slyly underlining those talents in the process.

In this, the new work has the feel of a manifesto. His last show here, just over a year ago, was both more painterly and less so. Then, his cartoons felt like German New Painting, expressionistic, harder to read. Now, the potatoes and tomatoes are both simpler and more virtuosic, exasperated but in a good way. What artist hasn't occasionally felt that he was killing himself with work to no end?

At times like this, you go back to the beginning, which is what I'd guess Armen is doing. Personally, I'm intrigued to see where he goes next.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Luc Tuymans @ Wexner Center for the Arts

Luc Tuymans is the most challenging painter in recent history. A retrospective of the fifty-one-year-old Belgian artist at the Wexner Center for the Arts, in Columbus, Ohio, invites a verdict. Mine is a thumbs-up. Tuymans’s thinly brushed, drab-looking (but sneakily lovely) canvases, usually based on banal photographs with wispy political associations, dramatize the fallen state of painting since the nineteen-sixties. Tuymans also discovers in the very humiliation of the medium a surprising vitality. He does so with audacity, in terms of subject matter. He works in thematic series, whose topics have included the Holocaust, disease, Flemish nationalism, Belgian colonialism, post-9/11 America, and the mystique of Walt Disney. One of Tuymans’s first definitive works is a 1986 painting of the gas chamber at Dachau. The first-person touch of his brush is the work’s sole, and frail, emotional anchor. Tuymans is Flemish, a native and lifelong resident of Antwerp. He quit painting in the early nineteen-eighties to pursue filmmaking, resuming in 1985. Tuymans’s works would rather whisper than shout, though always in a vicinity of raw nerves. He has recently painted both a series touching on Belgian politics and a suite responding to America in the era of George W. Bush. His 2005 painting of Condoleezza Rice both demands and rejects answers. Tuymans articulates a modern tradition that gives equal weight to the dazed German Romanticism of Friedrich and the wide-awake Parisian modernity of Manet. He has compared his method to the self-developing of Polaroids, saying of his process, “It’s like I don’t know what I’m doing but I know how to do it, and it’s very strange.” Tuymans is influential among younger painters, but he is not apt to become popular.

"Diktatur" Ronald de Bloeme @ Hamish Morrison Berlin

With an army of billboard-sized works of equal dimensions (220 x 350 cm) de Bloeme questions media strategies and the content of the information found in contemporary visual sign systems, as used in advertising and the packaging industry, reflecting on the absolutism of today`s communication processes.

In an era in which imagery is increasingly superseding language, de Bloeme analyses the origin of signals and the components of their persuasiveness. How do producers of visual language manage to manipulate neutral form and colour in a way that they induce a subconscious process of identification for the largest possible number of individuals of a specifically defined target group? To what extent does red next to white evoke a flag or the packaging of a chocolate bar?

Through appropriation, deconstruction and manipulation using a computer Ronald de Bloeme transforms image templates of our consumer society. He censors existing text and eliminates any figurative references, creating a pure geometric language, which he again combines and distorts into arresting compositions. These are then transferred to canvas with competing colourful layers of high-gloss and matt enamel paint. The resultant expansive surfaces capture our attention through the combination of colour and use of various techniques, with a suggestive impact analogous to the original advertising medium's intention.

„The viewer often doesn´t know what is more enjoyable - the mastery with which the artist gives a new unity to a whole range of elements, or the remaining fine imperfections that are a sign of the handiwork."(1)

Through the collaging of everyday consumer goods that we are constantly exposed to, de Bloeme´s body of work creates a heterogeneous field of forces, of tensions and contradictions, certainties and uncertainties. The original context is not maintained as such, rather the work recalls memories of perception or of consensus of knowledge; the information, retained only as codes, has an effect on us but we cannot explain why. Are we not merely carriers of internalised decoding systems, controlled by the ever-extending propagandistic sign-systems of the dictatorship of consumerism?
Whilst de Bloeme´s colour combinations can be identified as codes, at the same time samples of other contextual systems of signs unfold. In doing so the artist brings the relativity of information into an innovative game. In his painting Ironie he mixes a military code system with the aesthetics of a paper napkin; in Extract he replaces in a more radical manner all relevant core information with constantly oxidizing gold pigments.
With his contra-manipulation de Bloeme asks us to determine how complex the structures behind communications strategies for consumer goods really are and how much impact they have on our subconscious and to what extent they control our everyday life.

see also interview:

Mark Bradford & Kara Walker @ Sikkema Jenkins

Sikkema Jenkins now hosts an exhibition with not one, but two MacArthur Genius grantees. Announced this morning, Los Angeles based artist Mark Bradford now joins the ranks of his show colleague Kara Walker as a grantee. Bradford uses found paper from billboards, posters, and magazines that he finds on the streets to create painterly collages.

530 West 22nd Street
New York, NY 10011