Better later than never - if you haven't already visited these fascinating exhibitions, don't miss your chance to pay a visit, as some of them are ending soon. Here is why we liked them.
Claes Oldenburg: The Sixties @ MUMOK (on view through May 28, 2012)
Credited as one of the most important artists since the 1950s, Swedish-born Claes Oldenburg (1929) is perhaps best known in the popular eye for his iconic exploration of the American Pop art in the realm of three-dimensional objects. Intended as a commentary on the consumer society of the capitalist era, seasoned with a touch of humor, everyday objects become immortalized through the effervescent glaze of Pop art. Oldenburg’s touch elevates these objects, often regarded as a commodity, divulged, used, then discarded, to symbols of cultural ideals, aspirations, and fantasies.
MUMOK presents a truly comprehensive and impressive show of Oldenburg’s artistic investigation dating back to the late 1950’s. On view are early works such as The Street, The Store, and The Home work complexes, comprising emblematic objects characteristics of the respective venues, such as the Giant Ice Cream Cone and Floor Cake of 1962, the iconic cheeseburgers and fries, the giant plugs, mixer, and soft fan; Ray Gun, the invisible energy that is capable of assuming any form and penetrating any object, evocative of American fantasy and future comics; films and photographs documenting outdoor projects; the ingenious Geometric Mouse, presented in various scales (installed for the first time in scale A at the MoMA’s sculpture garden in 1969). The Mouse Museum (realized in 1977 for Documenta 5 in Kassel) is presented both in the form of a model and as a human scaleconstruction. A complex of black corrugated aluminum, undulating to create a shape of Mickey Mouse’s head, the Museum showcases Claes Oldenburg’s personal collection of miniatures (ranging from self-made sculptures through kitsch commercial items and knick-knacks to other found objects) in its illuminated vitrines lining the walls of the dark interior.
Andrea Fraser: Projection @ MUMOK (on view through June 3, 2012)
Also at MUMOK, it’s worth taking the time to sit through American artist Andrea Fraser’s video work. Bouncing off of opposite walls in response to one another, the fifty-minute two channel video installation titled Projection presents transcribed video recordings of intense psychoanalytic consultations, which address questions of social, economic, and institutional structures, and by virtue of its positioning, launches an enquiry related to the artist-artwork-viewer relationships. Caught in between success and idealism, the spectator is exposed to a whole set of inner conflicts on display. A highly original, enjoyable presentation to both senses and intellect.
Yayoi Kusama @ TATE Modern (on view through June 5, 2012)
An absolutely wondrous journey through the Japanese artist’s oeuvre, well known for its metamorphic reinventions. Living in a psychiatric institution since 1977 at her own will, Kusama’s intriguing world of creation is infused with a sense of obsession, self-reflection, and a desire to escape, interpreted through patterns of repetitions and trajectories into infinity explored across various media. Watch the artist talk about her life in Tate's video.
Yael Bartana: …and Europe will be stunned @ Van Abbemuseum (on view through August 26, 2012)
Israeli-Dutch artist Yale Bartana’s acclaimed film trilogy, which has stirred a number of controversies since its presentation in 2011 at the Polish pavilion at the Venice Biennale, is now on view at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven. Love it or hate it, Bartana’s complex “propaganda” to unite the ones in need of belonging somewhere is certainly a masterful play on the senses, blurring boundaries between real and imaginary, dystopic and utopistic, compromising and revolutionary, making it a powerful work of art that should set in motion much of rethinking of contemporary conceptions regarding the co-existence of different cultures. The dream of Bartana’s multinational community, although centered around a quasi-fictitious movement called the Jewish Renaissance Movement in Poland (JRMiP), that calls for the return of 3.3 million Jews to Poland, is open not only to Jews but to anyone who is in need of belonging somewhere, potentially of a better, more peaceful future. As Bartana has said in an interview:
“This is a very specific study case but it touches upon more universal issues that reflect on social changes and migration in Europe and Middle East, and the possibilities or impossibilities of living with others, and the extreme nationalism and racism that is everywhere and currently increasing. It's important for me strategically to deal with something very concrete, with the history and the current situation between Israel and Poland or Jews and Poland, but the project can also speak for other nations.”
The video trilogy consists of three works: Mary Koszmary/Nightmare (2007), in which Sierakowski, a young leader in Warsaw calls out for for the return of the Jews to Poland in an almost empty stadium. In the second film, Mur i wieża/ Wall and Tower (2009), members of the JRMiP build a kibbutz on the grounds of the former ghetto in Warsaw, which appears to be welcoming yet its watchtower and barb wire fences recall death camps. The final movie, Zamach/Assassination (2011), sees the funeral ceremony of Sierakowski, who has been assassinated. Adding to the ambiguity, in this part, young members of the movement are adorned with armbands bearing the emblem of JRMiP, uniting the image of an eagle and a star of David.
Throughout the professionally filmed movies, an air of ambiguity, a mix of imaginary and real permeates the psychologically charged storyline, which stems from different positions, ranging from socialist ideologies related to Zionism, anti-Semitism in Europe, as well as past and present settlement programs of Israel. This very conflict arising from divergent viewpoints, which questions old utopias and failed ideologies, is in turn the starting point for Bartana’s resolution.
Bartana’s trilogy is evocative of propaganda films by presenting an ironic turnaround of the brain-washing strategies that extremist movements traditionally rely on. In the final room of the exhibition, visitors can pick up a copy of the JRMiP manifesto in the form of a large red poster, available in English, Dutch, Hebrew, and Polish. Displayed around the poster piles are the demonstration boards used in the videos, to further ignite sentiments. The dimly lit red space also features a desk with a computer, where visitors are encouraged to sign up for the movement on a website and are free to take away additional flyers as well. The films, together with the room installation comprise all elements of a successful propaganda machine: flyers, posters, manifesto, visual symbolism, speeches, internet, and films that exert an effect on one’s mind and emotions at the same time.
Whilst transmitting a convincing collage of fabricated realities and real memories through all perceptual channels of a (pseudo-)campaign, the stories remain fictive, yet by way of generalization become very true and real. Almost to the point that the fictional movement begins to feel real (and inviting?).
John Baldessari: Video works 1970-1977 @ Van Abbemuseum (on view through October 7, 2012)
An early exponent of video art, American artist John Baldessari’s (1931) 23 works on view from the Van Abbe Collection bear references to the film industry and popular media. The works investigate the relationship between word and image, often resulting in a deliberate contradiction (I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art,1971), separating objects from their traditional meanings (Folding Hat, 1970-71), and creating conceptually disjointed narratives (Art Disaster, 1971).
Alexander Calder – The Great Discovery @ Gemeentemuseum (on view through May 28, 2012)
This major retrospective of Alexander Calder’s works, the largest in fact that The Netherlands has seen since 1969, offers a stunning overview of the artist’s creative period characterized by an exploration of abstraction, gesture and immateriality, upon the influence of Piet Mondriaan, whom Calder met in 1930 in Paris. Calder was greatly impressed by Mondriaan’s use of space and aimed to translate it into his own working method, as he said: “It was this visit to Mondriaan’s studio […] that made me abstract.” In addition to his most iconic mobiles, combining equilibrium and movement, suspending elements of varying shapes and colors, on view are rarely seen wire figures, jewelry pieces, as well as a complete reconstruction of Mondriaan’s studio in Rue du Départ, the venue of the two artists’ first encounter with one another. The exhibition is an absolute must-see!
Matthew Day Jackson: In search of... @ GEM (on view through May 6, 2012)
Although Matthew Day Jackson’s (1974) very first solo show in Europe is alas, already closed, we still wanted to share a glimpse of it here. Including works from 2007 to present day, the exhibition intended to merge past and present, through which the artist articulated a thorough commentary about the American Dream and its failures, aspects of the manufactured American history and its myths. Remarkable works on view comprised Day Jackson’s Life and Time magazine covers, reweaving the meaning of their stories through an interchange of manipulated imagery; The Lower 48, (2006) a series of 48 photographs exploring the faces of the American landscape through 48 states, capturing portraits of “Mother Nature’s Land Soldiers;” and the Tomb (2010), inspired by Antoine Le Moiturier’s 15th-century Tomb of Philippe Pot, in the Louvre’s collection: the hooded monks are replaced by austronauts, while Pot’s effigy has been turned into a skeletal figure encased in a glass box, which corresponds to Day Jackson’s body measurements.
A number of hotly debated topics of present day related to nature and sustainability, among them human responsibility and intervention in preserving our planet, wastefulness, shortness of supplies, technology, politics, and relevant questions of warfare are often-revisited thematic lines of contemporary curatorial inquiry.Ja, Natuurlijk, or Yes, Naturally at GEM in The Hague is a true stand-out in this regard and completely hits the nail on the head in terms of connecting to audiences and getting this complex message across in a comprehensible, accessible and meaningful way.Read More
WE WENT TO SEE: Louise Bourgeois Editions @ Galerie Karsten Greve in Cologne
We were lucky enough to catch this marvelous show upon a recent visit to Cologne. Louise Bourgeois Editions, which concluded at the end of March at Galerie Karsten Greve, presented an important step to bringing further awareness to a very important, albeit perhaps not so well-known aspect of the artist's oeuvre: her print editions.Read More
Paola Pivi. Tulkus 1880 to 2018 presents a unique spiritual journey and is without a doubt a key exhibition highlight coinciding with the Art Week in Rotterdam. Opened on January 24th and on view through May 5th at Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, the exhibition brings together an impressive survey of photographic portraits of tulkus, an ongoing project created through the collaborative efforts of a large team of researchers in many areas of the world, at the initiation of Alaska-based, Italian multi-media artist Paola Pivi.Read More
The art lover's guide to the galaxy of art fairs in Europe for the fall season of 2012. Enjoy!Read More