Philippe Vandenberg

HAUSER & WIRTH | ZURICH
Limmatstrasse 270
August 30–November 8

Philippe Vandenberg, untitled, 2007, oil on canvas, 39 3/8 x 31 1/2 x 7/8".

A few group and solo exhibitions in New York, Paris, and Marseille hardly sufficed to make the painter Philippe Vandenberg—who committed suicide in Brussels in 2009—known to a greater public beyond the borders of his native country. This show marks the debut of his work in Switzerland. The course run by “Dog Day,” which is curated by Hamburg entrepreneur and collector Harald Falckenberg, invites the visitor on a journey of discovery. An untitled painting from 2008 sets the pace. On a black-and-white background charged with powerful, horizontal brushstrokes, a message in blue, orange, and black letters stands out: KILL THE DOG/DAY/KILL THEM ALL. The observer might read it as the cynically humorous protest of a seeker who in the end found no foothold in art.

Vandenberg’s works revel in the juxtaposition of ironic figuration and abstraction (à la Martin Kippenberger and Sigmar Polke) and, moreover, in the blurring of writing and image, in the vein of Cy Twombly. All of this comes to mind when looking at Vandenberg’s “L’Important c’est le kamikaze” (The important thing is the kamikaze), which he worked on between 1989 and 2005. Yet his unadorned, parched works give the viewer the greatest pause when they are left without titles. In a 2007 work, for instance, against a thickly painted black background there is this to read: DIEU ARRIVE (God arrives). As the “A” is unrecognizable, and the first “R” looks like a “P,” the viewer might also see: DIEU PRIVE (God [is] private). A theologian could hardly render a more accurate depiction of the abyss that opens between the two statements. God and life appear as if wrested from the deep oil background. Our existences struggle forth in scrawl.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.

Max Glauner

Sophie Taeuber-Arp

AARGAUER KUNSTHAUS
Aargauerplatz
August 23–November 26

Sophie Taeuber-Arp, King Stag: Deramo, 1918, wood, paint, metal, brass, bells, fabric, 23 x 5 1/2 x 4”.

Though Sophie Taeuber-Arp’s portrait has adorned a Swiss banknote since 1995, the modernist pioneer’s oeuvre has not yet been exhaustively researched or presented. Thankfully, this retrospective attempts to achieve those goals by gathering over three hundred works, including rarely seen costumes as well as a large array of her sketches—works that add complexity to our understanding of her practice.

The show focuses on Taeuber-Arp’s multifaceted, Bauhaus-spirited practice, which is evident in her paintings, her small-scale accessories and fabrics, and her designs for theatrical sets and original marionettes—notably for Carlo Gozzi’s 1918 avant-garde play König Hirsch (King Stag). Iterations of shapes manifest in her design objects, as in the famous wooden sculpture Coupe Dada, 1916, and the ironic painted hat rack–object Portrait Jean Arp, 1918, as well as in her mazelike spatial paintings, which also echo her furniture and architectural design—see the drawing Axonometric Drawing of Galerie Goemans, 1928–30, one of two blueprints in the show.

While the exhibition smartly groups motifs and media, the galleries also showcase repetition and difference, shifting between graphics and bas-reliefs, hard and soft surfaces, and representing space as conceived, perceived, and performed by the artist, who attended Rudolf Laban and Mary Wigman’s Zurich School of Dance. Though the show balances scholarly approach and sensory enjoyment, its enthusiastic presentation pardonably risks leveling off Taeuber-Arp’s delicate understandings of point, line, and plane by its sheer density. Overall, however, the array points out not only formal similarities but also Taeuber-Arp’s superlative sense for equilibrium.

Gabrielle Schaad

Emanuel Rossetti

KUNSTHALLE BERN
Helvetiaplatz 1
October 23–December 7

View of “Emanuel Rossetti,” 2014. Foreground: Gallery Bells, 2014. Background: Vomitory, 2014.

Emanuel Rossetti’s “Delay Dust” starts on an unusual note for an institutional solo exhibition. Before even entering, one encounters a work by another artist, Georgia Sagri’s Sick Building, 2014, a log lodged in a wooden, florescent painted frame, installed outside in front of the building. By incorporating Sagri’s piece, Rossetti gestures to his artistic milieu, as if signaling its importance to be equal to any of his own works. The inside of the museum is dominated by Rossetti’s Vomitory, 2014, a soft, blood-red carpet that covers floors and walls of the central lobby and a side gallery, upholstering the acoustic space that reverberates with the sound installation Boundaries # 2, 2014. Simple black speakers placed one per room throughout the museum emit an array of swelling and decaying sustained tones, lingering on the edge of audible, in a collage of drone music. The speaker’s frequencies bleed across multiple rooms, connecting the red-carpeted spaces with the surrounding bare, white rooms.

One of Rossetti’s unframed film stills, which features a donut-shaped image rendered in SketchUp, Untitled, 2010, is displayed in the lower floor galleries, but its reception is interrupted by a shrill, timed ring from upstairs of Gallery Bells, 2014, a zigzag layout of five metal bells laid out on the floor and installed in one of the red rooms. This pervasive sound unites the visual displays, putting them in dialogue across spatial boundaries and reiterating Rossetti’s opening gesture of including Sagri, in the way it evinces a determination on Rossetti’s part to bridge connections between individual practices, mediums, and environments

Gabrielle Schaad