Sunday, November 26, 2006

Ákos Birkás 24 November – 4 February 2007 LUMU, Budapest, Hungary

Ákos Birkás is known first and foremost by the public, up to the present day, for his “Heads” series, his abstract ovals painted as a programme from the mid-eighties up till the late nineties, comprising nearly two hundred pieces in all. Not only the entirety of the painter’s oeuvre, but even a large portion of the “Heads” series is practically unknown in Hungary. This is not surprising, however, since from 1985 Birkás worked abroad with increasing frequency and for longer periods. He last had a large-scale solo exhibition in 1994 in Budapest; this was followed by a presentation in Vienna in 1997, in which he summarised the developments in his painting until that point. His new pictures have been on view in the decade since in German, Viennese and Parisian galleries. Thus, the local art scene has received Birkás’s new pictures produced around the new millennium with not a small measure of surprise (moreover, incomprehension): these are easily painted, large-scale, realistic portraits, which might appear to be diametrically opposed to his earlier paintings, known at home. By now, however, Birkás has taken a further departure from his abstract ovals, going as far as socio-political, narrative scenes, featuring several characters – on view for the first time at the Ludwig Museum Budapest. That which might seem to be an unexpected turning point in the eyes of some, is actually the fruit of Birkás’s coherent artistic programme; it is an oeuvre that incessantly questions the nature, role and aims of painting (and the painter), and thus, does not remain static, but is in a constant state of flux, in motion. Birkás’s pictures are the proceeds of a self-analysis of art and the artist (but not merely documentary), reflecting upon painting, and within this, first and foremost the intellectual relationship to portrait-painting, and this relationship, this self-reflection embraces in a single arc Birkás’s various periods, and his artworks that might appear at first sight to be inconsistent or radically innovative, or even provocative. This retrospective exhibition does not simply align the selected pieces of his oeuvre one alongside the other, but we intend to indicate this span, as well: to the conceptual and theoretical foundations of Birkás’s painting, and to the determining questions of the development of his life-work, in these works produced from 1975 up till 2006, of diverse genre, technique and ambition.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer's Life, 1990–2005,Brooklyn Museum (NY)

Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer's Life, 1990–2005, an exhibition of more than 200 photographs, debuts at the Brooklyn Museum, where it will be on view from October 20, 2006 through January 21, 2007, prior to an international tour. The exhibition, sponsored by American Express, is being organized by the Brooklyn Museum. Among the other venues it will travel to are the San Diego Museum of Art, the High Museum of Art, the Corcoran Gallery, the de Young Museum, Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris, and London's National Portrait Gallery, with additional venues to be announced.

The material in the exhibition, and in the accompanying book of the same title, which will be published by Random House, encompasses work Leibovitz made on assignment as a professional photographer as well as personal photographs of her family and close friends. "I don't have two lives," Leibovitz says. "This is one life, and the personal pictures and the assignment work are all part of it." The material documents the birth of her three daughters and many events involving her large and robust family, including the death of her father.

Portraits of public figures include the pregnant Demi Moore, Nelson Mandela in Soweto, George W. Bush with members of his Cabinet at the White House, William S. Burroughs in Kansas, and Agnes Martin in Taos. The assignment work also includes searing reportage from the siege of Sarajevo in the early 1990s and a series of landscapes taken in the American West and in the Jordanian desert.

One of the most celebrated photographers of our time, Annie Leibovitz has been making witty, powerful images documenting American popular culture since the early 1970s, when her work began appearing in Rolling Stone. She became the magazine's chief photographer in 1973, and ten years later began working for Vanity Fair, and then Vogue, creating a legendary body of work. In addition to her magazine work, Leibovitz has created influential advertising campaigns for American Express, Gap, Givenchy, The Sopranos, and the Milk Board. A retrospective of her work from the years 1970 to 1990 was presented at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. and at the International Center of Photography in New York.

Leibovitz is the recipient of many honors, including the rank of Commandeur in the French government's Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and the Barnard College Medal of Distinction. She was named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress in 2000 and one of the thirty-five Innovators of Our Time by Smithsonian magazine in 2005.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Art Link until 7.1.07 Göteborg Konsthall (S)

This autumn the Göteborg Konsthall will be presenting a group exhibition of works by artists, all sharing the intention of involving and engaging us and having us examine more closely the society we live in, our own selves and our daily lives. The exhibition is entitled Art Link and consists of six works by seven artists who all in their various ways hope to stimulate people to participate actively in their projects. The works thus belong to the category known as ‘participatory art’, art with a social ambition focusing on processes and human relationships and situations rather than on the art object as such. In projects of this kind the artists often have as their starting point some specific social, cultural or political context which they aim to discuss, research or present alternatives to. In recent years there has been a surge of this type of artistic projects. Art Link exhibits a small selection of the various approaches and methods used.

Apart from the fact that these artists share certain common features, their choices of content and working method differ. Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta Kalleinen have devised ‘workshops of complaint’ as part of their Complaints Choir. Assisted by other participants and a composer they have converted these expressions of complaint into songs, which they have then gone on to perform in choral form in the cities where the four art projects have been held. In her work Funk Lessons from 1983, Adrian Piper invited visitors to the exhibition to listen and dance to funk music, the intention being to stir reflections on the stereotypical image we have of African-Americans. Superflex presents the project Guaraná Power, an energy drink that the art group have produced in collaboration with a peasant guarana cooperative from Maués in Brazil. The Power and Illumination Projec is Annika Lundgren’s alternative to energy production, in the form of fitness centres’ spinning bicycles as energy source. In The West London Social Resource Project Stephen Willats has worked with residents of four London areas, with emphasis laid on their relationships to their immediate environment and behavioural patterns.
Esther Shalev-Gerz presents First Generation, about first generation immigrants to Sweden and their responses to confrontation with the new land. After a month this artwork will be removed from the exhibition to be replaced by a parallel exhibition opening on 18 November with an entirely new work, The place of art, by the same artist. The Place of Art is a video installation in two parts. Based on contributions from 38 artists living in the suburb Bergsjön, the project deals with questions of the relation between art and place. The work is shown in two places, Rymdtorget´s shopping center in Bergsjön and Göteborgs Konsthall, linking contrasting spatial constructions and cultural domains. TheArt Link exhibition marks the start of a programme with the same title in which the Göteborg Konsthall aims to develop a number of projects over the next two years. The Art Link programme will focus on communication, co-operation and the creation of networks. The programme’s basic aim is to promote and create links between contemporary art and the environments in which art operates, links between different art projects, between the practitioners and consumers of art and between people in general.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Andreas Slominski until 28.01.07 MMK, Frankfurt am Main (D)

Born in 1959 and now living in Hamburg and Werder/Havel, Andreas Slominski has made an exceptionally interesting and extraordinary contribution to contemporary international art. Following important solo exhibitions in the Serpentine Gallery in London in 2005, Fondazione Prada in Milan in 2003 and Deutsche Guggenheim inBerlin in 1999, the Museum für Moderne Kunst (MMK), Frankfurt/Main, is staging the largest museum exhibition of his works to date. The MMK is showcasing a selection of works from the last 20 years, primarily new spatial installations, and the choice bears witness to the enormously radical nature of Slominski’s oeuvre, which with its covert sense of humor holds up a correcting mirror to contemporary culture. How much paint is needed to paint a lighthouse or a battle tank? Will fortune find me, or do I have to go out and find it? How can one startle the people who linger in parks at night? Why is an oven needed to burn forked branches, and what has a football got to do with a child’s skull? The things that Slominski concerns himself with could generally be described as field research – an aesthetic and fundamental investigation of casual perceptions. Slominski discovers creative potential even in the smallest objects and devices. He seeks out the abstruse and within the absurd finds unexpected insights, frequently with great cunning and artifice. And the works often have a double meaning, or, to quote Nancy Spector »we enter a world in which everything is upside down, in which all our expectations produce the opposite effect, in which comedy quickly becomes tragedy and vice versa, in which there are traps lurking on every corner, ready at all times to take in, torment or indeed delight the observer.«

In line with the MMK’s agenda, the exhibition extends over all three floors of the museum
building and is closely linked to the rest of the collection. The MMK has been following Slominski’s artistic output ever since it opened in 1991 and has thus far been able to acquire more than 40 exemplary works for its collection – from the painstakingly ironed, folded and carefully stacked dusters, dishcloths and tea-towels, or bicycles laden with the entire worldly goods of homeless people, to a Christmas decoration for spring, summer and fall. A number of works produced specifically for the exhibition address the cultural history of the City of Frankfurt and the surrounding region. One room is dedicated exclusively to the new group of bright and garish »polystyrene pictures«. They are a statement on what everybody wants to talk about nowadays: painting.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Desiree Dolron: Exaltation - Gaze - Xteriors until 20.12., Institut Neerlandais, Paris

Desiree Dolron’s (born in 1963) exhibition is showing, for the first time in France, three series of photographs, Exaltation - Gaze – Xteriors, which reflect the very personal nature of the artist’s work, which is both documentary in style and the work of a visual artist.

In Exaltation (1991-1999), Desiree Dolron focuses on the expression of the religious experience during trance ceremonies in festivals in India and Thailand. In her following series entitled Gaze (1996-1998), she comes back to this phenomenon in a profane context. She creates underwater portraits of people cut off from their sensory perceptions. Finally, the series Xteriors (2001- 2006), very pictorial, reveals a different world, strongly influenced by the early Flemish paintings.

In her life and work, Desiree Dolron is fascinated by the dividing line between appearance, perception and reality.

A (French/English) catalogue of the three series will be created especially for the ‘Mois de la Photo’ event by the graphic designer Xavier Barral, Director of the publishing house Éditions Xavier Barral, Paris.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


UNCERTAIN STATES OF AMERICA - American Art in the Third Millennium is a unique presentation of young and emerging American artists, curated by Daniel Birnbaum, Gunnar B. Kvaran and Hans Ulrich Obrist.

The exhibition was first shown at Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, fall 2005 and then traveled to Bard College in New York and Serpentine Gallery in London. After Reykjavík it will carry on to Herning in Denmark, Warsaw, Moscow and Beijing.

The exhibition consists of more than 120 works by over 40 young artists, and presents a wide spectrum of expressions, from video and film to installations and paintings. Although the exhibition is comprised of rich and varied material, certain common features are apparent. The curators note that they have been confronted with a narrative art, and an ability to tell new and disparate stories. They have encountered artists who are cognizant of their historical context, and who, on many different levels, express a clear social and political consciousness. Meanwhile, all the works break new creative ground, and have a strong aesthetic awareness.