Sprovieri is proud to present the fifth solo show by Jannis Kounellis at the gallery. The exhibition will present a single large installation that occupies the whole space of the main gallery.
The installation was originally presented at Palazzo Vignola in Todi (Umbria) in August 2014, which the following text by Rudi Fuchs refers to.
'More and more emphatically in recent years, heavy black stains have become a basso continuo in the repertoire of Jannis Kounellis.That black lies so deeply submerged in his imagination that I regard it, in fact, as an essential aspect of his artistic ‘handwriting'. The form of those stains is undefined. This is moreover how those fluid forms come about: as results or remnants of a process. Three or four summers ago, in a studio in Umbria, I saw him creating them – with men's coats immersed in boiling tar. With an assistant he lifted each heavy coat (black, drenched, rumpled) from the cauldron and let it drop, with a smack, onto a metal plate over which white painter's linen had been stretched. Then it was carefully lifted up and taken away. The remaining irregular form of the pitch-black blotch suggested that it had been made by a coat, but perhaps I saw that because I had witnessed the process. Initially, the blotch was still wet. It trembled a bit but gradually began to dry, so that it became more rigid and a more matte black as well – absorbing more light and shining less.
Kounellis spoke at that time about ombra, shade. In his imagination this is how he evokes the memory of dark shadowy light in the art of Caravaggio, whose obstinacy he recognises in himself. But there is something else: most of Caravaggio's paintings are actually sparing compositions involving few figures, which seem huge because they have been placed in a measured pictorial space. In the work of Kounellis the dramaturgy is similarly restrained. The coats that he uses, for instance, express the scale of the human figure.
This also occurs in a work that he produced in Magdeburg in 2012, in a rugged round space of the museum which is housed in an early medieval monastery. Hung all around at regular intervals (from meat hooks, on pipes) are a number of coats. In the middle of this tonsorium we see a stash of coal (also a formless 'blotch’ of black) in a round area formed by burlap bags filled with coal. The morphology here is vague, since the ensemble could just as easily be interpreted in a figurative manner: shadows of figures standing silently around a well, for instance, or around a grave. The black coats are visually suggestive blotches of gloom. I say silently because they hang there so quietly and motionlessly, contemplatively in fact. With these austere means in which color is restrained, that subdued atmosphere in this greyish black space has been just as meticulously orchestrated as the figures in a painting by Caravaggio.
Of course this work in Magdeburg isn't a narrative but rather the expression of an (anonymous) lament. If anything is altered, in terms of the form of the means, the expression changes immediately. These works are not made impulsively but with a great deal of control. This past summer in Todi (not far from Perugia) Kounellis also created a work with coats in a small space at the theatre. Here the expression has a different dramatic quality, because (for the first time, I believe) he was making use of remnants of torn coats. In Magdeburg the coats dropped quietly from a loop in the collar. There they were undisturbed and vertical blotches of black. The outline of the torn rags in Todi is, as we can see, sharp and irregular and jagged. Furthermore, the tatters of black have been skewered to frightful butcher's knives, clasped between two metal bars attached to the wall. And jabbing upward to the ceiling is a pole, from which coats also hang. The space seems to have been split by a flash of lightning – very different dynamics in comparison to the work in Magdeburg.
In Todi the installation is more restless and sinister. The black ‘stains', which had a thoughtful and diffuse effect in Magdeburg, are now edgy and ominous due to the torn contours as well as the knives. The dramaturgy is one of bleak excitement – like that in Rembrandt's legendary portrayal The Three Crosses. And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness all over the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. This is how Luke describes the circumstances surrounding the crucifixion of Christ, and in that darkness the grand master of darks and shadows situated the ultimate martyrium. In the final state the dark etching became even darker, but still suspended there among the areas of black is the pale, thin figure of Christ – a desolate and pitiful image. With that in mind I now look, too, at the torn world of the installation in Todi.’
(text by Rudi Fuchs, 2014; translation by Beth O'Brien)
Born in 1936 in Piraeus, Greece, Kounellis moved to Rome in 1956, where he still lives and works. Since 1960 Kounellis has exhibited all over the world and his work is part of major public collections: Tate Modern, London; Centre Pompidou, Paris; MoMA and Guggenheim, New York among others. Recent solo exhibitions include the Musée d'Art Moderne, Saint-Etienne (2014); MIMA, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern art; Parasol Unit, Foundation for Contemporary Art, London; Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens (2012); Today Art Museum, Beijing; National Centre for Contemporary Art, Moscow (2011); Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (2007).
Johann König, Berlin is pleased to present “sunrise”, American artist Justin Matherly’s second solo exhibition at the gallery.
An oscillation of proximity exists in Matherly's prodigious cast sculptures and large-scale photo work. At the furthest distance of the landscape, we see the sunrise; it rises towards us while appearing to retreat as we move towards the horizon line. Such constant, paradoxical shifting is allegoric of the kinetic nature in Matherly’s work: meaning and source are molten, and each degrades as the final composition takes form through a decidedly flexible casting process. An array of soft materials, such as malleable Treegators (slow release watering bags for foliage), allow for an additional element of chance in reference to the specificity of the carved form crafted from industrial Styrofoam.
For the first time, Matherly presents what appears to be a documentary photograph of a sunrise at an excavation site of the temple-tomb, Nemrud Dagi, in southeastern Turkey. It is a pointed departure from his other two-dimensional works, which endure a process of heavy abstraction from their source material. Here a photograph is presented seemingly unedited, captured by the artist on site. Yet a small instance recalls that representation is never without manipulation – collaged little blue flowers punctuate the bottom left corner of this. This addition is swathed in connotative lineages: among these, it is a recurring symbol in German Romanticism and a provocative emblem for the unreachable.
“Sunrise” dominates the gallery. Divinities Zeus and Apollo are depicted with the Hellenic King Antiochus I, as Matherly continues his investigation of dexiosis reliefs – in other words, right-handed clasps. An action of political alignment, it is both loaded and impoverished of meaning by its overuse and ubiquity. The ambulatory supports which recur in Matherly's works are central to the work, propping up the rising facade and revealing the hollowness and holes that belie the sculptures weight. It is ridden with pathos; the walkers and crutches seem to be in a perpetual state of exertion. Backing away from this piece, the pictorial handshake, the extended readymade arms and legs that support sunrise gives the work a humanistic corporeality – in essence, it is a gesture.
A more literal deconstruction exists in a small-scale sculpture propped against the wall. Clinical equipment, concrete, and a rock collected from the Turkish site compose a work that is not self-supportive, but relies instead on the gallery wall. It is a conjurer of fragmented histories and sources also, which lean on each other for context and support in contingent networks of meanings, however flexible. Sources are generated, then self-generating; Objects cycle along a mythic, twisting human narrative; Meanings shift ad infinitum somewhere between the sacred and the hollow.
Justin Matherly (born 1972) lives and works in Brooklyn. His sculpture “Sunrise” was presented in the Unlimited sector of Art Basel (2013). His work has been extensively exhibited in New York, at Paula Cooper Gallery (2013), with the Public Art Fund in City Hall Park (Common Ground, 2012), Bureau (2011), or the Sculpture Center, (2010). Justin Matherly’s next exhibition will be in February 2015 at Vienna Secession.
Pékin Fine Arts is pleased to host our first solo exhibit of artist Zhang Xiaotao. Zhang Xiaotao’s video animation works Sakya (2010-2011)
and The Adventures of Liang Liang (2012-2013) were exhibited in the 55th Venice Biennale (June – Nov 2013), in the China National
Pavilion’s group exhibit “Transfiguration” curated by Wang Chunchen, head of curatorial research at Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine
Arts Museum and adjunct curator at the Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University (the Broad MSU). Zhang Xiaotao graduated
from the oil painting department of the Sichuan Fine Arts Academy, starting his career as an oil painter. He co-founded the Sichuan
Fine Arts Academy’s New Media Studies Department in 2010 where he works today not only as professor advocating increased support
for new media art, but also as pioneer artist working at the cutting edge of innovating with new media art production. Professor Zhang
also organizes international academic and scholarly symposiums and exhibits in China’s art institutions and museums, focused on the
topic of new media art studies. Zhang Xiatao is earning a doctoral degree from Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts, with Xu Bing as
his Phd advisor. Zhang Xiaotao lives and works in Chongqing and Beijing.
Zhang’s exhibit at Pékin Fine Arts is the first time all three of Zhang Xiatao’s full-length video animation works will be presented together
in one venue, along with photo stills from the video works, with the aim of highlighting common themes throughout Zhang’s multi-media
In Sakya, (2010-2011) Zhang Xiaotao’s first video animation film, his focus is most direct, depicting the struggle to retain spirituality and
religious devotion (Buddhism) within the context of China’s all consuming push to modernize. Using sci-fi stylized computer gaming 3-D
video imagery, the artist attempts to illustrate meditative states of Tibetan Buddhism. The video’s imagery moves easily – and this is the
crux of why it is disturbing – from computer software generated on-line gaming animation iconography to Buddhist sutra and ritualized
prayer exercises. Sakya – and each of Zhang’s videos since - seek to prove, like an experiment in human behavioral science, that all
experiences whether gaming or meditative exist simultaneously, with equal meaning, intersecting and regenerating each other in
perpetuity, at once both ancient and modern.
In The Adventures of Liang Liang (2013), the artist looks to the language of a child for spiritual meaning, literally animating his son’s drawings,
with the aim of bridging the gap between father and son/adult and child, to illustrate the multi-layered, multi-spatial understandings
and communications in every day existence.
Finally, in the most recent, Three Thousand Worlds (2014), Zhang Xiaotao returns to his Buddhist questioning, experimenting with contemporary
visualization of the Buddhist notion of orientation of the self. A self, according to Buddhist precepts, that exists at once in at least
three realms or the “three thousand worlds”, a multi-level, multi-spatial existence of heart and universe as one. According to Zhang,
“Our ancient people had a simple consciousness of relativity, that there is a kind of superior meaning between the macroscopic and
the microcosmic, and there is a channel between “heart” and “yu zhou（the universe）”, so the heart is literally connected to the “yu
zhou”. “Yu” refers to the world around us while “zhou” the past, present and future. The “yu zhou” is a collective concept of time and
space. Our ancient people’s views of time and space possess similarities to modern ideas about the universe and the study of quantum
physics. Each universe has its independent time and space. Quantum physics helps us to observe the existence of a multi-layered,
multi-dimensional universe as well as a personal state of being in that universe….”
Zhang’s practice today relies heavily on contemporary visual language and specifically video animation software, to reconcile fundamental
and traditional Buddhist precepts with modern life and its material demands. His personal exploration and struggle to find meaning
is rendered as public art world display, through the deceptively “easy” and “accessible” world of video gaming software iconography.
Implicitly positing a new question: “Indeed, does computer (animation) software, after all, help to unlock questions of the meaning of
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