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Diana Poole

Highlights from Paris Photo 2017

Highlights from Paris Photo 2017

Paris Photo (8-12 November) showcased 189 exhibitors from 30 different countries beneath the glass, iron and steel roof of the beautiful Grand Palais. The fair was made up of four sections. The main area was for the galleries, which featured diverse presentations from the 19th century to today. On the first floor, the “Prismes” sector was devoted to 14 curated projects, often large-format series and solo shows. The 3rd section comprised 32 book publishers, hosting an exciting array of book signings with artists. Finally, a new addition to the programme focused on film, video and photography, held at the cinema space within the Grand Palais. This year’s fair had record attendance - 64,500 visitors over 5 days!

It was an exciting week for the auction houses too. Notably, Man Ray’s highly anticipated “Noire et Blanche” (1926) of the artist’s muse Kiki de Montparnasse, sold at Christie’s Paris last Thursday for €2.6 million ($3.1 m), setting a new world record for classic photography!

Man Ray, Noire et Blanche, 1926

Man Ray, Noire et Blanche, 1926

Here are a few of my highlights from a busy and inspiring week at the fair!


Shigeru Onishi at MEM Gallery, Tokyo

It was thrilling to view recently discovered vintage prints by Shigeru Onishi (1928 – 1994, Japan), which was presented in a solo exhibition at MEM gallery’s stand. Onishi was a mathematician and an artist, who produced surrealist photographs and abstract ink paintings. Between the 1950s and 1970s, his work was introduced to Europe, but perhaps due to not being affiliated with any clear school, and shifting from photography to painting, his photographic work somehow disappeared from the public eye. Fortunately, it was safely kept by his family and now, 50 years later, the work is being reconsidered by museums and collectors.

His large dark-room prints are highly experimental – he used multiple exposures, unorthodox printing methods such as using a brush to coat the paper with emulsion, and embraced irregularities in the development. His nudes, cityscapes, trees and portraits combine expressive abstract, painterly forms alongside more descriptive
elements. 

Installation view of Shigeru Onishi vintage prints, MEM Gallery, Tokyo

Installation view of Shigeru Onishi vintage prints, MEM Gallery, Tokyo

John Chiara at Jackson Fine Art, Atlanta (Prisme section)

The San Francisco-based photographer John Chiara (b.1971, USA), who captures landscapes with giant cameras that he builds himself, and transports on a flatbed trailer, had a solo-presentation in the Prisme section at Jackson Fine Art. The works are breath-taking - sublime colours drift from areas of softness to high saturation –
each image is a singular, luminous object.

Chiara’s process creates unique, large-scale prints and recalls the early days of the medium when artists dealt with heavy, awkward equipment and endured long exposure and development times. The design of the cameras allows the artist to simultaneously shoot and perform his darkroom work while images are recorded directly onto oversized photosensitive paper. The prints retain traces of the developing process such as streaks, drips, and unevenly saturated colors, evidence of the hands-on nature of their making.

Check out his recently published first book “John Chiara: California”, co-published by Aperture and Pier 24 Photography: https://aperture.org/shop/john-chiara-california/

Installation view of John Chiara unique prints, Jackson Fine Art, Atlanta

Installation view of John Chiara unique prints, Jackson Fine Art, Atlanta

New positions at Galerie Robert Morat, Berlin

I enjoyed the sense of calm entering Robert Morat’s minimal curation. Predominantly abstract works by artists such as Bill Jacobson and Jessica Backhaus balanced with more representational imagery with a pared down aesthetic.

One of the highlights for me was the grid of small photographs by Peter Puklus (b. 1980, Hungary), from his series “The Epic Love Story of a Warrior”. This project ambitiously covers almost 100 years of European history in a symbolic collage that references events such as World War I to the collapse of the Soviet Union, although some of the connections are fairly elusive. Nudes combined with sculptural elements hang alongside bricolage style constructions, usually made from basic materials, and black & white prints are interspersed with colour. Although Puklus’ work has clear cultural and political associations, there is also a pure aesthetic appeal in the playful dialogue and minimal compositions, where you can certainly create your own pairings, groupings and narratives. At less than €2,000 each, they are very tempting too!

Peter Puklus had a solo exhibition “Unsafe to Dance” at C/O Berlin in 2016, and has been nominated for the 2018 Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize. 

Installation view of Galerie Robert Morat, Berlin

Installation view of Galerie Robert Morat, Berlin

Installation view of Peter Puklus “The Epic Love Story of a Warrior” presentation, Galerie Robert Morat, Berlin

Installation view of Peter Puklus “The Epic Love Story of a Warrior” presentation, Galerie Robert Morat, Berlin

Benrido Atelier, Kyoto (Book section)

Benrido is one of the world’s last remaining producers of collotype prints (a process invented in the late 19th century). The atelier offers selected contemporary artists the opportunity to do a residency in Kyoto and collaborate with the master printers to make exquisitely realised works. This collaboration is unique. The highly skilled printers encourage the artists to see how far they can push their images, to create ever more refined and elegant prints. Quality is ubiquitous - in the artworks, tones, paper and beautiful portfolio box presentations!

Benrido’s booth at Paris Photo was a hub of activity with artists coming to view and sign prints. A few chance encounters can be seen below such as the British artist Stephen Gill standing next to his portfolio of prints from his “Night Procession” series, the first photographs since his move to rural southern Sweden from Hackney, London. Further below, Antony Cairns signs his colour collotype print, “IBM_LDN4_20”, where he used redundant IBM computer punch cards to print his photographs digitally, later assembling them to create a composite image. 

Stephen Gill standing by his “Night Procession” collotype prints and portfolio box, Edition of 12, Benrido Atelier, Kyoto

Stephen Gill standing by his “Night Procession” collotype prints and portfolio box, Edition of 12, Benrido Atelier, Kyoto

One of Stephen Gill’s collotype prints, part of his “Night Procession” portfolio, Edition of 12, Benrido Atelier, Tokyo

One of Stephen Gill’s collotype prints, part of his “Night Procession” portfolio, Edition of 12, Benrido Atelier, Tokyo

Antony Cairns signing his collotype print, “IBM_LDN4_20”, Edition of 10, Benrido Atelier, Kyoto

Antony Cairns signing his collotype print, “IBM_LDN4_20”, Edition of 10, Benrido Atelier, Kyoto

Benrido’s CEO Takumi Suzuki (left), Margit Erb, Director of the Saul Leiter Foundation (centre) and Taka Kawachi, Overseas Division Director of Benrido (right)

Benrido’s CEO Takumi Suzuki (left), Margit Erb, Director of the Saul Leiter Foundation (centre) and Taka Kawachi, Overseas Division Director of Benrido (right)

Galerie Kicken, Berlin

Kicken’s booth stood out both in terms of its original architectural format of a maze of columns, and the quality of the artworks. The gallery presented mainly vintage and contemporary works by German photographers such as unique photograms by Floris Neususs (1960s/70s) and striking portraits by Helga Paris (1980s) and Sibylle Bergemann (1970s), along with earlier masters such as Albert Renger-Patzsch (1930s). Important and enticing modernist vintage prints from central Europe were also exhibited including Lszl Moholy-Nagy, Erwin Blumenfeld, Heinrich Kühn, Rudolf Koppitz and Ed van der Elsken.

Klaus Rinke’s performative 112-part work “Mutations I” (1970) was showcased by Kicken in the Prismes section. The gallery also participated in a co-presentation with Galerie Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf, of Sigmar Polke’s experimental photographic work from the late 1970s to the 1990s. Disregarding the basic rules of shooting and processing, Polke created imagery with a distinctly painterly approach, and embraced endless experimentations in the darkroom. The prices for the Polke works were comfortably in the 6-digits. 

Installation view of Galerie Kicken’s (Berlin) architectural designed stand

Installation view of Galerie Kicken’s (Berlin) architectural designed stand

Ed Van der Elsken, Paris, 1953 © Ed van der Elsken / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

Ed Van der Elsken, Paris, 1953 © Ed van der Elsken / Courtesy Kicken Berlin

 Sigmar Polke, Ohne Titel / Untitled, 1968/82 © Estate of Sigmar Polke / Courtesy Kicken Berlin & Sies + Höke, Dsseldorf

 Sigmar Polke, Ohne Titel / Untitled, 1968/82 © Estate of Sigmar Polke / Courtesy Kicken Berlin & Sies + Höke, Dsseldorf

Process based work at Yossi Milo, NYC

There is a strong trend towards exploring the making of images, rather than the taking of a photograph, and this was no better seen than at Yossi Milo’s stand!

A few highlights from their booth represent new positions in camera-less photography. Meghann Riepenhoff (b.1979, USA) uses one of photography’s oldest techniques, the cyanotype. Her process is extremely physical  she submerges the paper in ocean waves or drapes it over tree branches during storms to create these beautiful and textured unique works. Part of the poetry is knowing how much is left to chance and the spontaneity of her practice in nature.

Alison Rossiter’s (b. 1953, USA) unique, abstract black & white works are also highly original in their making. She uses expired photographic paper (often now sent to her by fans!), and pours onto the surface, or dips the paper in, liquid developer. The embedded traces on the paper are revealed, sometimes fingerprints, other times
light leaks, oxidation or mold in the photographic emulsion. For her “Fours” series, she dipped the paper into developer at different angles. Various tones from black, brown to white emerge and Rossiter combines four developed sheets to create large-scale abstract and sculptural compositions. 

Meghann Riepenhoff, Littoral Drift #548 (Pleasant Beach Watershed, Bainbridge Island, WA 06.22.17, Three Waves with Pooling at Apex of Low Tide), 2017 © Meghann Riepenhoff / Courtesy of Yossi Milo Gallery

Meghann Riepenhoff, Littoral Drift #548 (Pleasant Beach Watershed, Bainbridge Island, WA 06.22.17, Three Waves with Pooling at Apex of Low Tide), 2017 © Meghann Riepenhoff / Courtesy of Yossi Milo Gallery

Installation view of Alison Rossiter’s unique works, Yossi Milo Gallery, NYC

Installation view of Alison Rossiter’s unique works, Yossi Milo Gallery, NYC

James Casebere at Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris

I was really drawn to James Casebere’s (b. 1953, USA) latest series of large-format photographs “Emotional Architecture”, whereby he recreated elements of the Mexican architect Luis Barragan’s iconic buildings. Casebere built table-sized models of the architecture in his studio and then photographed them to recreate the lighting and atmosphere of the real spaces. They are pared down to their essential elements, and devoid of furniture or inhabitants. At first you don’t notice they derive from models, but with time you begin to realise subtle elements are slightly off such as a tree being too large (or is it an over-sized branch!) or his incorporation of water in one of the outdoor spaces (a common feature in his work). The vibrant colours and warmth inherent
in the photographs are very enticing – and the artist’s deception keeps you looking and questioning!

James Casebere, Courtyard with Orange Wall, 2017 © James Casebere / Courtesy of Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris

James Casebere, Courtyard with Orange Wall, 2017 © James Casebere / Courtesy of Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris

James Casebere, Flooded Courtyard with Tree, 2017 © James Casebere / Courtesy of Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris

James Casebere, Flooded Courtyard with Tree, 2017 © James Casebere / Courtesy of Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris

Vivane Sassen at Stevenson, Cape Town & Johannesburg

Stevenson’s presentation of Viviane Sassen’s (b. 1972, Netherlands) photographic works from her series “Of Mud and Lotus” and “Roxane II” was both beautiful and disorientating. Sassen credits the colours and contrasts of Africa (she spent the first 5 years of her life in Kenya and continues to travel and work there) as a key inspiration. Although she now devotes more time to personal projects, she is best known as a fashion photographer who has built her reputation on breaking the rules!

She experiments with collage, hand-coloured elements and streaks of pigment – it’s often hard to make out where the photograph ends and her interventions begin. This is further emphasised by the playful hang; a small distorted portrait next to an abstracted painted body part, integrated with performance, encourage layered readings and responses.

A great way to discover Viviane Sassen’s work is through her photobooks: http://www.vivianesassen.com/books/roxane/

Viviane Sassen, Untitled from Roxane II, 042, 2017 © Viviane Sassen, Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

Viviane Sassen, Untitled from Roxane II, 042, 2017 © Viviane Sassen, Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

Viviane Sassen, Blue Dolphin, 2017 © Viviane Sassen, Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

Viviane Sassen, Blue Dolphin, 2017 © Viviane Sassen, Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

 

Take a tour with Diana in Zurich to discover more!

Banner image: Paris Photo 2017, © Jérémie Bouillon

Zurich Art Guide - November

Zurich Art Guide - November

The exhibitions selected this month shift between documentation, a quest for purity and escape from reality.

I.

Exhibition: Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars (Curated by Martin Jaeggi)
Artist: Walter Pfeiffer
Galerie: Gregor Staiger
Dates: Until November 25th, 2017


This is Galerie Gregor Staiger’s first exhibition of Walter Pfeiffer (b.1946, Switzerland). Pfeiffer is best known for his candid and informal photographs recording his life, friends and lovers. What makes this exhibition unusual is it presents his less known, but no less important, drawings (he only started photographing in the 1970s as a means to inspire his drawings!), alongside the photographs.

There’s a playful rhythm to the hang with its variety of scale, format, tones and subject. A pair of black & white closely cropped portraits of two young men with intense, knowing stares really grabbed me on entering – I felt like they were challenging me to come inside! Groups of small drawings (switching from colour inks to pencil sketches) of nudes and still lifes, are interspersed with photographs. A small ink drawing of a simple wooden chair covered in a thick, red blanket hangs next to a minimal line drawing of a seated nude, his chin rested on his knee with a wistful gaze. This intimacy is reflected on the opposite wall by a black & white photograph of an empty sofa bathing in morning light with a dented pillow pressed in its corner, a trace of someone’s sleeping head? The mood changes with a photograph of a wide-eyed cat, its head poking out of the top of an upside down cardboard box. It seems the cat was just as perturbed by my intrusion! I loved these shifts in gear, from quiet reflection to explosive energy, with moments of humour and lightness.

In its extension of his own life and snapshot style, his work naturally aligns with other photographers such as Larry Clark, Peter Hujar and Nan Goldin. However, his quest for seeking out beauty (albeit often the darker sides) sets him apart. When asked what drives him to capture beauty, he responded: “Because you don’t know how fast it is fading”. The exhibition title, “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars”, is taken from Antônio Carlos Jobim’s song (reinterpreted by Frank Sinatra). The languid mood exudes the same sense of nostalgia and serenity as Pfeiffer’s photographs, but still augers something darker. Sinatra sings “We will live eternally in this mood of reverie away from all the earthly cares around us”. I allowed myself to get lost in Pfeiffer’s dream-like world of care-free yet melancholic protagonists, but wondered ‘from what and whom are they escaping?’

Walter Pfeiffer, Untitled, 1978/2017 Courtesy the artist and Galerie Gregor Staiger, Zurich

Walter Pfeiffer, Untitled, 1978/2017
Courtesy the artist and Galerie Gregor Staiger, Zurich


II.

Exhibition: Bernd and Hilla Becher (Selected by Max Becher and organised with Olivier Renaud-Clément) 
Artists: Bernd and Hilla Becher
Galerie: Hauser & Wirth Zürich
Dates: Until December 22nd, 2017


For over 40 years, the husband and wife duo Bernd (1931–2007, Germany) and Hilla (1934-2015, Germany) Becher photographed the architecture of industrialisation from the 1960s to early 1990s. Hauser & Wirth presents their archetypal blast furnaces, cooling towers, gas tanks, water towers and winding towers, perceived by the artists as modern-day cathedrals. As professors at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, the artists significantly influenced a younger generation of artists including Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Thomas Ruff and Thomas Struth, who retained the Bechers’ controlled objectivity and documentary method but applied new technical/digital possibilities with a contemporary vision.

The Bechers described their subjects as “Anonymous Sculptures”, transformed into abstract forms, focusing on the geometry of circles, triangles and rectangles and closely aligning with the minimalist art movement of the time (particularly in the US with artists such as Sol LeWitt and Carl Andre). Always shot with an 8x10 large format camera and on grey overcast days (sunshine was their nemesis!), they would isolate their subjects with close cropping, usually taken from the same angle. They organised their photographs into series based exclusively on functional typologies and arranged them into grids or rows, both highlighting and reinforcing the sculptural properties of the architecture.

Every frame reveals an absence of humans and nature. This was essential to achieve their desired pure aesthetic, focusing solely on their subjects, without distraction. Indeed, they went to great lengths to achieve this – they’d been known to cut down tree branches or pay train drivers to move out of the frame (beer was their currency of choice!), in order to remove any extraneous information. Just as scientists work in labs, it seems the Bechers were documenting these disappearing industrial landmarks as specimens for preservation, with the same level of dedication and obsession! As I observed structure after structure, I was reminded of biomorphic forms. Overall the exhibition has an unsettling post-apocalyptic quality, removed from any recognisable reality.

Bernd & Hilla Becher, Terre Rouge, Esch-Alzette, L, 1979 © Estate Bernd and Hilla Becher, Courtesy the Estate and Hauser & Wirth

Bernd & Hilla Becher, Terre Rouge, Esch-Alzette, L, 1979
© Estate Bernd and Hilla Becher, Courtesy the Estate and Hauser & Wirth


III.

Exhibition: Lento Violento
Artist: Talisa Lallai
Galerie: Bolte Lang
Dates: Until December 16th, 2017


What a pure sensory pleasure to enter Talisa Lallai’s (born 1989, Germany) exhibition, which radiated the southern Italian summer heat on a blustery Autumnal day in Zürich. Although the artist has always lived in Germany, both her parents are Italian and she spent many summers in southern Italy. The exhibition comprises Lallai’s own photographs alongside found photographs, objects and installations - a utopian view of a place she feels part of, but has never fully belonged.

Entering the gallery, I was immediately transported: a vibrant photograph of banana plants set sharply against a bright blue sky, the leaves rustling in the summer breeze like arms swaying in a crowd. A quick glance up revealed a terracotta plant pot with bright green vines drooping freely. To the right, a colourful swimming towel depicting a kitsch beach scene complete with ocean, palm trees and sunset in faded pinks, yellows and green hangs from a white towel rail. The works awoke in me a yearning for summer, a time for relaxation, where the days stretch out into a seemingly never-ending distance, but a season that nevertheless seems to end all too soon.

A sense of nostalgia continues in Lallai’s celebration of a period when photography was still developed manually, and was subject to imperfections. There is an installation of three found photographs depicting a beach and typical southern Italian village, dimmed in fading colours with a slight reddish tint, hung in their original gilded frames. Opposite hangs one of her own photographs, a peaceful ocean-scape behind a minimal, geometric rail – the exact same location as in one of the found photographs, which you would have no way of knowing but the kind of subtle hidden connection, Lallai enjoys. Taken with a cheap 1960s camera, the print contains all the grain and blur that she holds dear, far from high-end, crisp digital photography.

The meticulous display of works is both clean and minimal, and the objects pure. For example, I imagined the towel rail would be rusty, but it is pristine white. Another piece – a white postcard rack with a single pile of postcards, faded by the summer sun, is radiantly clean and new. The same goes for the plant pots. Though the installations are direct reflections of what the artist finds in Italy, they are removed from their context, like cut-outs. These contrasts give distance to the romantic view of crumbling, dusty streets and create a contemporary aesthetic. Lallai successfully combines nostalgia with an elegant and fresh aesthetic - a cool, energizing view to the haze of summer heat!

Installation view, Talisa Lallai “Lento Violento”, BolteLang, Zürich. Photo by Alexander Hana, © Talisa Lallai, Courtesy of BolteLang

Installation view, Talisa Lallai “Lento Violento”, BolteLang, Zürich. Photo by Alexander Hana, © Talisa Lallai, Courtesy of BolteLang

Zurich Art Guide - October

Zurich Art Guide - October

The exhibitions selected this month are diverse – from Contemporary documentary photography and Conceptual art to 1960s street photography. All inspired in me a strong emotional response – a reminder of art’s ability to jolt us out of our everyday lives (and reflect on the human condition)!

I. 

Exhibition:  Prix Pictet: Space
Artists: Mandy Barker , Saskia Groneberg, Beate Gütschow, Rinko Kawauchi, Benny Lam, Richard Mosse, Sohei Nishino, Sergey Ponomarev, Thomas Ruff, Munem Wasif, Pavel Wolberg and Michael Wolf
Venue: LUMA Westbau
Dates: September 22nd to October 29th, 2017

 

The annual Prix Pictet photography award usually leans towards big name artists with a smattering of newcomers, and this year is no different. Touring different locations around the globe, it is always a behemoth event in the photography calendar! The theme this year (always relating to sustainability) is Space, presenting 12 shortlisted artists.

I struggled with the theme Space. The artworks take you in such different directions, from pollution to migration, overpopulation, even outer space with Thomas Ruff’s ma.r.s landscapes, that it lacked to me a wholeness or flow. I was initially perplexed by how Space even relates to sustainability and to each individual artist’s practice, but I started to discover connections the longer I spent with the works. 

This year’s winner is Irish photographer Richard Mosse, for his series “Heat Maps”. Made using a military camera that detects body heat from a distance of over 30 km, Mosse tracked the journeys of refugees from the Middle East and north Africa. In his panoramic photograph “Idomeni”, 2016 (header image), a refugee camp in Greece, the atmosphere is haunting; people appear ghost-like as inverted silhouettes due to the camera only picking up contours of heat rather than light and shadow. Unlike the endless press images of the refugee crisis, which we seem increasingly numb to, I became completely lost in this work, taken in by the huge expanse of the scene and wondering about these individuals’ plight - where will their journey end, how can we find space for them?

In contrast, Michael Wolf’s photographs capture the Tokyo rush hour through close-up portraits of faces pressed against train windows in the morning subway in Shinjuku station. Each passenger seems to be caught in a dream-state. I held my breath, feeling the claustrophobia of this reality for millions of commuters every day. I relaxed a little in front of Rinko Kawauchi’s photograph of the Japanese tradition of yakihata (controlled burning of fields). Her image of a hill divided in two by a wall of flame, one side scorched black, the other untouched is beautifully painterly. The message is meant to be of regeneration, however the blackened hill soon brought to mind global issues of over-farming and deforestation, and only awoke in me a warning. 

We’ve become so desensitized to environmental and humanitarian crisis that there’s certainly a timeliness to this theme. I left affected by unapologetic images of cramped cities, hemmed in commuters, restricted living quarters – perhaps the title should have been more pertinently “Out of Space”!

Michael Wolf ,       Tokyo Compression 18   ,       2010, from the series  Tokyo Compression , 2008–11  © Michael Wolf, Flowers Gallery, London and Prix Pictet 2017

Michael Wolf, Tokyo Compression 18, 2010, from the series Tokyo Compression, 2008–11

© Michael Wolf, Flowers Gallery, London and Prix Pictet 2017

II.

Exhibition: A Line Between the Morning Sun and the Evening Sun
Artists: Bill Bollinger, Hamish Fulton, Raphael Hefti, Mary Heilmann, Irene Kopelman, Gary Kuehn, Renato Leotta, Haroon Mirza, Roman Signer, James Turrell. 
Venue: Häusler Contemporary
Dates: August 25th to October 28th, 2017

 

“A Line Between the Morning Sun and the Evening Sun”. What a title! I kept turning it over in my head whilst ruminating over the various works in the show. Later I learnt the curator, Giovanni Carmine (Director of Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen) took it from Hamish Fulton’s artwork “From Coast to Coast (France)” (1992), featured in the show. Fulton is known as the “walking artist” - his experiences from extended hikes transfer to factual, text based graphic works; this one relates to the daily course of the sun’s orbit. The exhibition celebrates Häusler Contemporary’s 10-year anniversary, and for me the title beautifully encompasses a sense of time passing. Many of the artists place emphasis on process, seeing how far they can push materials (through experiments, extreme temperatures and science). They embrace that tension between control and letting go – a key component to any journey! 

In both the first and second space, Raphael Hefti’s “Various Threaded Poles” (2014), soar up to the ceiling, interrupting the space with shifting bands of colour. A quick glance down revealed Gary Kuehn’s “Melt Piece” (1969), fluid aluminium spilling over a rectangular brick nestled in the corner of the room. A playful surprise! Roman Signer’s “Stuhl und Wind i.O.” (2017) comprises an old vintage ventilator fan, noisily blowing out air, beneath a simple wooden chair. As Signer is famous for his exploding artworks, I wondered if any second the chair would lift-off! 

The idea of a line in the title is wonderfully descriptive. Irene Kopelmann’s “Lianas” (2014), a row of faint, delicate pencil drawings reveal knotted vines that lead us round the first corner into the second space. Then a short pause, followed by a minimal grey, horizontal line. At first, I wondered if this was a part of the gallery wall – it is in fact Bill Bollinger’s “Channel Piece for Corner” (1968), which points to small colour drawings by the artist, roughly sketched. 

I loved the way the exhibition incorporated such diverse works – sculpture, painting, drawing, photography by artists young and old. But amongst this multiplicity, I instantly felt a cohesion and relatedness, like the sense of calm you only feel when watching the sun rise or set! 

Installation view, “A Line Between the Morning Sun and the Evening Sun”, Galerie Häusler Contemporary, Zürich  Photo by Mischa Scherrer, Courtesy Häusler Contemporary München | Zürich

Installation view, “A Line Between the Morning Sun and the Evening Sun”, Galerie Häusler Contemporary, Zürich

Photo by Mischa Scherrer, Courtesy Häusler Contemporary München | Zürich

 

III.

Exhibition: No title
Artist: Jill Freedman
Venue: Fabian & Claude Walter
Dates: September 28th to October 21st, 2017

“The first time I touched a camera, I went right out into the street with it” recalled street photographer Jill Freedman (b. 1939, New York). And that’s exactly what you feel when looking at her black & white photographs - the camera was part of her and she was fervidly drawn to her subjects. The small exhibition in Fabian & Claude Walter’s intimate cabinet space present a selection of vintage prints from the 1960s and early 1970s, with a host of characters – anonymous pedestrians, protestors, the downcast on the streets of New York, circus clowns and artists. 

Freedman’s images are gritty with a prickly edge and biting humour. One photograph, “Untitled, NYC” 1970, captures what appears to be two young people having sex surrounded by a crowd, but only the man’s backside and the woman’s hand and legs are visible - the rest is concealed underneath a large sheet of ripped and crumpled canvas or paper. I wasn't sure if I should be appalled or burst out laughing! She also brilliantly captured momentary juxtapositions in the street - in “Christ Loved Men Only, London”, 1967, a dour group of British ladies, one blowing her nose and another taking an ungainly lick of an ice-cream cone is flanked by the wry graffiti scrawl of “CHRIST LOVED MEN ONLY”. 

Sure, the overall message is bleak but amongst all the toughness, I felt her tenderness and wicked humour too. The exhibition offers more questions than answers, as you ponder, you’ll find it hard to look away. Freedman’s images carry both poetry and punch – she’s one girlboss I’d like to meet!

Jill Freedman,  Christ Loved Men Only , 1969  © Jill Freedman, Courtesy of Fabian & Claude Walter Galerie, Zürich     Banner image:   Richard Mosse,   Idomeni,   2016, from the series  Heat Maps , 2016-17   © Richard Mosse, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York and Prix Pictet 2017

Jill Freedman, Christ Loved Men Only, 1969

© Jill Freedman, Courtesy of Fabian & Claude Walter Galerie, Zürich

 

Banner image: 

Richard Mosse, Idomeni, 2016, from the series Heat Maps, 2016-17 

© Richard Mosse, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York and Prix Pictet 2017

Zurich Art Guide - September

Zurich Art Guide - September

After a sleepy August with many of the galleries closed for a well-deserved summer break, there’s a sense of new beginnings as they re-open their doors with fresh presentations.  
 

I. 
Exhibition title: No title
Artist: Shirana Shahbazi
Galerie: Peter Kilchmann
Dates: 2 September – 21 October 2017

As a huge fan of Zürich based Iranian artist Shirana Shahbazi (b.1974, Tehran), I’ve been awaiting this exhibition with anticipation. It’s the artist’s first at Galerie Peter Kilchmann, though she has exhibited in galleries and museums far and wide. Shahbazi has transformed the gallery space through her own individually mixed colour blocks painted on the walls; her vibrant photographic works are decisively positioned to contrast with these hues. The artworks’ frames are made out of reflective silver, which pick up the colours on opposing walls. Viewing the artworks from different angles cause these reflections and colours to shift and move. It’s a show that has an immense impact from the word go! 

Alternating between abstraction and representation, Shahbazi’s brilliantly coloured, glossy photographs are made in the crisp style of commercial photography, but using analogue processes. To make her abstract compositions, she photographs objects, printed patterned papers and for the first time in this new body of work, mirrors. The effects are strange and disorientating, but if you study the images hard enough, there’s always a clue where the mirror begins or ends. Shahbazi enjoys these illusions, playing with what is real and not real – even the most abstract of her works are derived from tangible objects. 

The exhibition also features lithographs, originating from photographs of everyday life, from her travels in Tehran and elsewhere. Some appear more like collages, combining fragments of her abstract motifs with figurative elements. This is a new departure for the artist – merging her abstractions with figurative images, bringing the studio and outside world together. I love how the lithographs are interspersed with her glossy photographs, their tones are more muted and their surface matt, bringing yet another juxtaposition. 

Walking through this diverse exhibition, I realized Shahbazi’s work is about an overall experience. I felt she wanted me to stay with the images and lose myself in the colours and forms, and delight in the mystery and wonderment. 

Shirana Shahbazi, Raum-Gelb-01, 2017 Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich  

Shirana Shahbazi, Raum-Gelb-01, 2017
Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich
 

II. 
Exhibition title: Cosmopolitan
Artist: René Burri
Galerie: Bildhalle
Dates: 24 August – 21 October 2017

Entering this exhibition was extremely moving. It’s the first solo show since the great Swiss Magnum photographer passed away in 2014 and immediately his memory, charisma and joie de vivre came flooding back. 

The exhibition has been beautifully curated in the Bildhalle space, with careful groupings, and much of his archive on display. Icons such as his infamous ‘“Che”, Ernesto Guevara, Havana’ (1963) and ‘Four Men on a Rooftop, Sao Paulo’ (1960) are shown alongside less well-known images. 

Burri’s archive provides an extraordinary visual record of the latter half of the 20th century. You can’t help but wonder when taking in image after image – in Spain, Italy, France, Egypt, Vietnam, Brazil, China, Japan - how one person could witness so much. From his first photograph of Winston Churchill, taken when only 13 years old, he went on to capture many prominent figures including Che Guevara, Le Corbusier, Mao, Picasso, Giacometti, and the list goes on. There were conflicts too, from the 19567 Suez Canal crisis through the wars in Korea, Cyprus and Vietnam. 

It was Burri’s charisma, along with his curiosity and perseverance that allowed him such access. I love one story he told of how he came to photograph Picasso. After seeing “Guernica” in 1953, he vowed he would meet the artist. He tried waiting outside Picasso’s studio but had no luck. In 1957, he heard he was in Nîmes to watch a bullfight. At Picasso’s hotel, a porter mistook Burri for a member of the artist’s entourage and he managed to slip into his room to find him with a large group of friends enjoying a rowdy meal. Picasso let him stay and take photographs, resulting in an incredible series of intimate portraits of the artist enjoying the party with no hint of anyone having disrupted things. Burri always managed to get very close!

René Burri, Bilbao, Spain, 1957 ©René Burri/Magnum Photos  

René Burri, Bilbao, Spain, 1957
©René Burri/Magnum Photos
 

III. 
Exhibition title:  Whispering Widows
Artist: Clare Goodwin
Galerie: Lullin + Ferrari
Dates: 26 August – 7 October 2017

Clare Goodwin (b. 1973, Birmingham, UK) presents both small and large-scale paintings, collages and sculptures. The pristine white gallery space, punctuated by mainly pastel-coloured abstractions, offers a sense of ease and calm, a coolness from the summer heat. The gallery floor was painted white and the front windows covered with a rose veneer, creating a cocoon effect so we experience all the works as a whole. Encouraged by the exhibition title “Whispering Widows”, I could almost imagine these paintings and biomorphic sculptures speaking to each other in hushed tones. 

Goodwin loves to collect objects, usually discarded things, which she keeps in her studio as the source material for her paintings. For example, unwanted scarves, ties and old knick-knacks, often from the 1970s, the decade she grew up in. Brimming with traces of the past, they trigger her memories and inspire new, invented stories. She is keen to show that abstract painting has the capacity to represent quite tangible aspects of reality, which is further emphasised by the titles, usually British old-fashioned names such as Carol + Harry (image below). Her cool abstractions suddenly take on more of a human quality. When observing this particular painting with its translucent, loose washes of ink overlaid with defined, opaque geometric forms, I started to wonder about individual narratives. I imagined this Carol + Harry, perhaps an elderly couple, their lives intertwined through years of living in close quarters with their many quirks and peccadilloes. 

Working in Zürich, where Constructivism and hard-edged Concrete Art prevail, Goodwin clearly has a stylistic affiliation with this heritage, but she consciously creates distance through the emotion, nostalgia and spontaneity that she brings to her work. As I reflected on these artworks, their warmth and humour, I felt quite glad of her predisposition for entertaining the non-rational!

Clare Goodwin, Whispering Widows (Carol + Harry), 2017 © Clare Goodwin, Courtesy of Gaerie Lullin + Ferrari    Header Image: Installation view, Shirana Shahbazi, Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zürich, Sept. 2 - Oct. 21, 2017 Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich

Clare Goodwin, Whispering Widows (Carol + Harry), 2017
© Clare Goodwin, Courtesy of Gaerie Lullin + Ferrari
 

Header Image:
Installation view, Shirana Shahbazi, Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zürich, Sept. 2 - Oct. 21, 2017
Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich

Join Diana Poole, Oh So Arty's local art guide in Zurich on her next group tour which will take place on Saturday September 16th, 3 - 6 pm, sign up here

A short gallery hop in Zurich!

A short gallery hop in Zurich!

I’m pleased to introduce a few exhibitions worth seeing in Zürich currently, to highlight the diversity and scope of art in just a few galleries; from emerging to established, modern to contemporary; design, sculpture, photography, painting, video, installation, and sometimes all these interwoven into a single artist’s practice!

Mai 36
Koenraad Dedobbeleer (until 4 March)

Mai 36 is one of Zürich’s most established galleries, founded in 1987 by Victor Gisler. The gallery represents many great Contemporary artists such as John Baldessari, Franz Akermann and Thomas Ruff, as well as significant Artist Estates such as Robert Mapplethorpe, Luigi Ghirri and Peter Hujar, which reveals the gallery’s leanings towards the photographic medium. 

The gallery recently opened “Koenraad Dedobbeleer: Images Entertain Thought” that incorporates sculptures, installations and photographs full of associations, witty commentaries with art historical references. Dedobbeleer focuses on everyday objects, which he modifies and re-contextualises. These transformations prompt the viewer to question the essential quality of things and their existence within newly created frames of reference, allowing for a variety of interpretations. The exhibition comprises 40 analogue photographs, which are often the result of a reproduction of a reproduction. When observing the prints closely, occasionally one sees lines across an image where the quality has been compromised or other imperfections. Here, the artist may have photographed an image from a magazine or from his iPhone. Dedobbeleer enjoys this element of guile, also the layering, the subtle shifts in seemingly identical images and the dialogue between different objects. Most of all, as in the title “Images Entertain Thought”, he hopes these images will be the starting point for the viewer to make unexpected associations and discoveries. 

Koenraad Dedobbeleer, installation view of “Considered Unrepresentative”, 2016
Courtesy of Mai 36, © Koenraad Debdobbeleer

Koenraad Dedobbeleer, “Serve” 2016 triptych
Courtesy of Mai 36, © Koenraad Debdobbeleer

Galerie Edwynn Houk
Lillian Basssman (extended until 18 February)

The Edwynn Houk gallery was founded in 1980. Since then, the gallery has specialised in vintage photographs by leading figures from the Modernist movement. The gallery has represented the Estate of Brassaï, Bill Brandt, Dorothea Lange, André Kertész, Ilse Bing and the Robert Frank Archive. Houk also runs a strong Contemporary programme representing artists such as Lalla Essaydi, Abelardo Morell and Sally Mann. Their main space is in New York, and in 2010, they opened this second gallery in Zürich. 

Edwynn Houk’s current exhibition presents Lillian Bassman’s elegant and dream-like fashion photographs. Bassman’s images appeared on the pages of Harper’s Bazaar from the late 1940s to 1960s. She trained and worked under famed art director Alexey Brodovitch. Having abandoned photography for two decades, in the 1990s Bassman returned to her old negatives and re-interpreted them. She changed the original framing, accentuated contrast and softness and retouched areas. They became far more abstract and daring, leading to a renewed interest in her photography among editors, curators and collectors. She told the New York Times in a 1997 interview that she wanted to “take the hardness out of photography” in order to make it less literal, which she accomplished using darkroom techniques such as bleaching, dodging and burning with selective focus. She can be credited for introducing a new aesthetic in fashion photography. 

Lillian Bassman exhibition installation view
© Lillian Bassman Estate / Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery

Lillian Bassman, “Black with one white glove, Barbara Mullen, dress by Christian Dior, New York, Harper's Bazaar”, 1950
© Lillian Bassman Estate / Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery

BolteLang
Anyway Part Of It (until 4 March)

Bolte Lang was founded in 2008 by Anna Bolte and Chaja Lang. The gallery shows a variety of emerging artists working with all media from sculpture and installation to painting, drawing, collage, photography and film, often with a focus on material and studio practice. 

The gallery’s newly opened exhibition “Anyway Part Of It” was curated by Jeanette Apitz, a collector of design objects, who invited internationally recognised designers Kueng Caputo and Clémence Seilles, as well as fine artist Patrick Hari to collaborate on this project. 

When entering the gallery - dimly lit by Kueng Caputo sculptural light bulb pieces (“A piece of Wall”, 2014) - one encounters an array of colourful objects, textures and sound. In the front room, a selection of the designers’ latest works are arranged to create a platform for the music performance. Speakers, acoustic panels, lighting, room dividers, stage props and a lonely microphone are carefully arranged, creating a stage without performers. The music playing is by singers that were censored in different countries, making a statement for the freedom of musical expression. Venturing further into the gallery is a pure delight for the senses. Typeface letters are scattered on the floor and travertine bowls are placed above, elegant rock stools along the wall with the introduction of movement via a circular hanging mobile that gently turns. The third room hosts a large sculptural work by artist Patrick Hari entitled “Muppet Villa – Dreaming Alone is a Boring Land”. A large wooden structure, it hints at function but simultaneously denies any use. His use of different materials and the sculpture’s suggestion of a domestic microcosmos creates a playful dialogue with the design pieces. A common thread running through all their practices is the focus on material with a high level of craftsmanship.  

Anyway Part Of It exhibition installation view
Courtesy of BolteLang, © Kueng Caputo & Clémence Seilles

Patrick Hari, “Muppet Villa - Dreaming Alone Is A Boring Land”, 2017
Courtesy of BolteLang, © Patrick Hari

HAUSER + WIRTH
RODNEY GRAHAM (until 11 March) 
HENRY MOORE (until 11 March) 

Hauser & Wirth need little introduction, an international gallery devoted to Contemporary and Modern art, founded in Zürich by Iwan and Manuela Wirth and Ursula Huser in 1992. It is a global enterprise with spaces in Zürich, London, New York, Los Angeles and Somerset, UK. The gallery represents over sixty established and emerging artists, and several reputable Artist Estates such as the Louise Bourgois Studio, the Estate of Philip Guston and the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts. 

Hauser & Wirth in Zürich currently presents two very different exhibitions, Vancouver-based contemporary artist Rodney Graham on the ground floor and early works on paper by the late British artist Henry Moore on the second floor. On entering the formidable ground floor space, within the Löwenbrau complex, we encounter Rodney Graham’s large-scale photographic lightboxes comprising highly detailed, allegorical and witty compositions. Each image is a fictional self-portrait with the artist in costume portraying a variety of characters. From the elaborate props to the intricate costumes and stage sets, each scene is executed with great precision and technical skill. In “Antiquarian Sleeping in His Shop” (2017), where Graham plays a collector sleeping amongst his many precious objects, it feels as though one could reach into the frame and pick an item from a shelf, peer a little closer even and read the titles on the book spines. Since the 1980s, Graham has developed his diverse practice to encompass photography, painting, sculpture, film, video and music. 

Then walking up to the gallery’s second floor space one discovers what feels like a small-scale museum exhibition, “Henry Moore: Myths and Poetry”, curated by his daughter Mary Moore. The exhibition focuses on the artist’s early works on paper (1940s – early 1950s) and includes poetry magazine covers, illustrations for poems by Herbert Read and sketches, exploring the graphic side of Moore’s practice. In addition to etchings, lithographs and drawings, several sculptures are also on view including a large-scale work carved from Elmwood that has not been exhibited since the 1950s. One of the highlights of this exhibition is the supporting archival material on show including Moore’s tools, personal possessions such as books and chairs, photographs of the artist in his studio and correspondence with friends such as W.H. Auden and Herbert Read. This offers an intimate view of a great artist with a unique glimpse into his private space and early working practices. 

Installation view of Rodney Graham, “Media Studies 77”, 2016
Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth, © Rodney Graham

Henry Moore, “Cover Design for Contemporary Poetry and Prose”, 1937
Reproduced with permission of the Henry Moore Foundation. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth

- by Diana Poole

* Cover pic: Rodney Graham, “Antiquarian Sleeping in his Shop”, 2017
Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth, © Rodney Graham