Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Palazuelo, Pablo until 18.02.07 MACBA, Barcelona

Pablo Palazuelo (1915) is one of the key figures of Spanish art of the second half of the 20th century, though unfortunately he has still not won the international recognition his work deserves. There are a number of reasons for that neglect. First, the still precarious situation of contemporary Spanish historiography. Second, an excessively linear notion of abstraction, which begins with Cézanne and Picasso, continues with constructivism and finally reaches minimalism. That orthodox conception of modern art has meant that other kinds of practices and aesthetics, which had to do with the symbolic, have been partly ignored. Palazuelo is one of the people affected in this way. The exhibition at MACBA, conceived as a retrospective, will be placing the emphasis on the more neglected aspects of his work.

Although he began his studies in architecture, from 1939 Palazuelo decided to devote himself entirely to painting. His work evolved towards abstraction, or non-figuration, as he himself considers that it should be called, and after 1946 he moved into a geometrical abstraction. In 1948 he obtained a grant from the French Institute in Madrid to study in France, which brought him into close contact with the French avantgarde, the new abstract works shown at Galerie Denise René (where he exhibited in a collective the same year), and he also met Eduardo Chillida, with whom he has kept up a close friendship.

Palazuelo conceives art as “a road to find a way out of human problems”. He makes continuous references to the history of painting, and the influence on his work of the notion of line in the work of Klee, which was a complete revelation to him, is particularly remarkable. He has also stated his interest in Russian constructivists like Gabo and Pevsner, though he rejects their scientific conception of geometry.

The drawings and gouaches are the seed of the canvases, “structures which, through a process of manipulation bring about metamorphic generations which form families”, in a biological way. The sculptures are the development of his two-dimensional forms in three dimensions.

Geometry is a central aspect of his work, because it is the measure of matter, the possibility of exploring it, understanding the process as an interaction between imagination and thought. He considers that all the forms we see are geometrical, “geometry is at the origin of life, which is the most inventive and endless thing we know. To have a vision of the structures that are contained in other structures, to see the new forms in potential, to see the possibilities of generating forms, to experience the passage of forms into others through metamorphosis, to see what grows like a plant. The geometrical forms I work with also develop through a very long metamorphic process or movement, and for that reason we can say that those forms are open and remain open and predisposed to transformation.”

Hence his interest in the skill and imagination with which graphic geometrical structures are handled in Arab art, or the correspondence between his work and musical composition, which can already be seen in the first drawings he did at the beginning of his time in Paris and which suggest musical notations to him when they are done, or the later series of drawings and gouaches done in 1978 in which those notations are now conscious. His is a work process based on a geometrical metamorphosis, radical, extreme, complex and, in his own words, in a slow tempo.

Colour, an element he introduces into his two-dimensional works, is not to be found in his sculptures: he does not need colour added to the sculpture, since the variety of metal materials provides him with the colour spaces he requires. In the painting, he imagines the colours before introducing them, saturating them, like symbols “of the deep dynamisms between psychic and material energy.”

In his work there is a major concern with the analysis of the structure, with the revelation of new needs, and the positive psychic sensations they produce in him. He does not seek to represent, but to collaborate in the act of the appearance. To his way of thinking, “that involves, on the part of the person looking at the work, a reading that can and must go beyond simple interpretation or formalist translation.” The imagination is a means of activating the hidden reality, which he also considers a real world, and an organ of knowledge.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Felix Gonzalez-Torres until 09.01.07 Hamburger Bahnhof , Berlin

The RealismusStudio of the New Society of Fine Arts (Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst) will be presenting a comprehensive retrospective at the Hamburger Bahnhof. The exhibition concentrates on the artist’s semi-temporary and reproducible works as well as on a selection from his photographic oeuvre.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres was one of the most important American artists of the 1990s. His work is characterized by a keen understanding of the social, cultural and political situation and an ability to translate such complex circumstances and events into the simplest of forms. The formal openness of the content of his objects and photographs contrasts with his political statements and private experiences. He leaves it up to viewers to interpret them as they will, aware that these interpretations will be dependent on their cultural and socio-political contexts.

Aesthetically polished and socially provocative, Felix Gonzalez-Torres used minimalist strategies and added personal, social and political meaning. Through his work in the 1990s, he made an important contribution to the critical reception of minimalism and concept art as politically motivated art forms within the “system”. His aim was on the one hand to work within the traditional context of art-making practices, on the other hand to infiltrate the system. This may be seen for instance in the billboard projects shown at public sites, in which he makes use of subversively aesthetic marketing strategies and thus open up for discussion questions of what is "private" and what is "public".

As a gay artist of Cuban origin, another theme of Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ work was societal emancipation, including sexual emancipation; the gender discussion; equal integration of ethnic groups and of feminist theory and practice in the general art discourse. The blotting out of history, the efficiency of the political system, the omnipresence of ideology and the AIDS crisis all culminate in Gonzalez-Torres’s artistic work and activity.

This retrospective coincides with the 10th anniversary of the death of Felix Gonzalez-Torres. The artist’s work has been shown in five RealismusStudio exhibitions since 1988 (two of them solo exhibitions). The curator of the show, Frank Wagner, has followed his artistic development almost from the beginning. In this exhibition the works byGonzalez-Torres will not be just refabricated, but reinstalled.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Netherlands v. Germany until 21.01.07 GEM, The Hague, (NL)

Schilderkunst Nederland – Deutschland Malerei examines the current revival in neo-romantic, neo-realist painting. It does so by pairing off three Dutch artists with three German ones: Matthias Weischer (D) with Aaron van Erp (NL), David Schnell (D) with Tjebbe Beekman (NL), and Martin Eder (D) with Rezi van Lankveld (NL). The aim is to expose the similarities and differences between their work, in terms both of content and style.

Recent years have seen a boom in neo-romantic and neo-realist painting. This has been reflected in the escalation of prices at international auction to levels unprecedented in the contemporary art market. The revival in no way involves the kind of retour à l’ordre that occurred in the 1920s and ’30s. Today’s neo-romantic and neo- realist painters experiment as easily with modernist elements like form, brushstroke and colour as with the academic rules, often in one and the same painting. Moreover, since the advent of post-modernism, it has once again become possible to laugh and cry in art without becoming toe-curlingly sentimental or slushily romantic. For this exhibition, guest curator Jhim Lamoree and GEM director Wim van Krimpen, have chosen artists whose work resounds with the fever of time. They share a romantic view of life which leads them to express not so much an ideal as the uncertainty of existence. The three representatives of new German painting - Martin Eder, David Schnell and Matthias Weischer - were all born in West Germany, but deliberately chose to train at art schools in the former GDR, where emphasis is still placed on the craft aspects of art. Their work is deliberately exhibited in combination with that of Dutch contemporaries.
The work of Aaron van Erp and Matthias Weischer is hermetic and oppressive. Both focus on the psychological confusion caused by external pressures. In the case of Weischer, the claustrophobia of the narrow living spaces he depicts is almost physically palpable; in Van Erp’s paintings, the melancholy and hope still present in Weischer’s work descend into mania. Tjebbe Beekman and David Schnell produce landscapes reflecting the condition of our society. Beekman, who lives and works in Berlin, allows social tensions to infiltrate his compositions, while Schnell addresses the myth of nature. Both make occasional explicit use of scientific perspective, drawing the viewer almost literally into the scene.
Rezi van Lankveld en Martin Eder work with the subconscious mind: obsessions, frustrations and nightmares of every kind. Whereas Van Lankveld seems to conjure her pictures out of thin air, Eder browses through art history and the mass media to produce his semi-surreal images.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

At the East-West Crossroads -The Art of Wucius Wong, Hong Kong Museum of Art

A world-renowned artist, Wucius Wong has been very active in the Hong Kong art scene. He has made significant contributions to art, art criticism and art education over the past fifty years. By incorporating Chinese landscape elements and design concepts, his works unveil a new horizon in ink painting.

This is a major retrospective exhibition to commemorate the accomplishment of Wucius Wong. It features over seventy representative works displayed in five chronological sections. With each section covering a decade of his works, the exhibition will showcase the stylistic evolution and the superb achievement of Wucius Wong from the 1950s to date.