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6 December 2014 – 15 February 2015

Christian Friedrich 
‘On Something new / Dirt in a hole’

Christian Friedrich
‘The Stone That the Builder Rejected’, 2008
DV transcoded to digital file, color, sound
10 minutes 24 seconds
Courtesy the artist and Wilfried Lentz Rotterdam

Following the exhibition at Museum de Hallen in Haarlem (NL), the Grazer Kunstverein presents the first solo show in Austria by artist Christian Friedrich (b. 1977, DE). The exhibition entitled ‘On Something New / Dirt in a Hole’ presents an array of works including a newly produced, large-scale sound and light work, an immersive, monumental video installation and a series of earlier sculptures. Friedrich’s artistic interest lies in the structure, manipulation and conditions of subject-object relationships. A common theme in the artist’s work is the subjugation of the human body, which he regularly presents as an object of desire in which power and submission collapse into the subliminal. His earlier drawings and sculptures are informed by cause-and-effect formulas, mining various conceptual traditions and their quasi-rational methods, both strict and frivolous.

Friedrich’s exploration of ‘structure’ is felt conceptually as well as physically. His installations employ affective strategies of aesthetic experience that circumvent the spectator’s urge to analyze. The imagery often revolves around private and public agreements, including those between strangers, between artist and muse, and between artist and spectator. For example, for the video work ‘The Stone that the Builder Rejected’ (2008), Friedrich invited an unsuspecting stranger he contacted via a personal ad to his studio, where the guest was confronted with a strobe-lit scenography that featured the artist himself – hanging immobilized and vulnerable. ‘Untitled’ (2010–2011) juxtaposes imagery exploring paradoxes of freedom and overpowering. Cross-cut motifs, such as a man being electro-shocked in a dungeon, an American flag, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a Russian monument of WWII and youtube clips of private fetishisms, rhythmically re-appear causing the video to become structural instead of discursive. This can be said about most of the artist’s work as it often concentrates on the artistic rather than on the referential impact, though without shying away from its references. In the comprehensive sound and light installation ‘On Something New (Dirt in a Hole)’, the staccato speech of a stutterer is linked to other coded systems of meaning: a light sequence in Morse connected to photographs. All elements of the installation are intertwined in a mysterious lingual and sensory network. The work almost unethically provokes unexpected beauty.

The exhibition is co-produced with De Hallen, Haarlem (NL) and is co-curated by Xander Karskens and Krist Gruijthuijsen.
It is generously supported by the Mondriaan Fund, the Netherlands.

The Members Library* presents 

Will Holder

walter de maria
De Maria Walter, High Energy Bar, 1966
Certificate 21 x 28 cm, B 456/O
museum moderner kunst stiftung ludwig, Vienna
former Hahn Collection
acquired in 1978

Will Holder (b. 1969, UK) is a London-based typographer and editor. In a back and forth between writing and speaking, he questions the published states of cultural objects. Holder sees conversation as model and tool for a mutual and improvised set of publishing conditions whereby the usual roles of commissioner, author, subject, editor, printer and typographer are improvised and shared, as opposed to assigned and pre-determined. 

At Grazer Kunstverein, Holder takes Walter de Maria’s ‘High Energy Bar’ (1966, in an infinite edition until the artist’s death) as a prompt to assemble a ‘materialist inventory’ of language produced as a design-function of art objects. De Maria custom-wrote the terms of ownership for each bar’s owner; and, as is natural to conversation, Holder will similarly adapt the language produced around the bar, engaging local universities and other educational institutions with regard to collecting, multiples, ownership, language scoring value etc.

The word ‘bar’ in the title’s service-oriented double-entendre not only sets the tone for mutable definitions of language-objects, but also for the informal, public conditions that can be hoped for in the exhibition space.

*The Members Library is constructed and designed by the artist Céline Condorelli in collaboration with Harry Thaler as a permanent work entitled ‘Things That Go Without Saying’. The structure built for The Members Library is part of a series entitled ‘Additionals’. These different prop-like objects and quasi-functional structures operate at a scale between furniture and architecture.

On display continuously 

Ian Wilson 
1 February 2013 – 

Ian Wilson (b. 1940, South Africa) is an artist whose work bears a powerful resemblance to the Kunstverein’s own mission: to explore the relationship between the viewed – or discussed – and the viewer, and the urgency involved in these interactions.

Wilson has been exploring spoken language as an art form since 1968. He has described his own work as ‘oral communication’ and later as ‘discussion’. At Wilson’s own request, his work is neither filmed nor recorded, thereby preserving the transient nature of the spoken word. Wilson’s earlier artistic explorations took place entirely in monochrome. He was absorbed by questions relating to perception and painting. The works were indebted to the innovations of Minimal art in the late 1950s and early 1960s with its distillation of painting to nonrepresentational self-reflectivity and stripping of sculpture to the bare bones of industrially fabricated geometric form without determinable metaphoric content.

Three stained canvases by Wilson from 1966 presage the artist’s all-consuming interest in discovering what might be described, quite literally, as ‘nonobjective’ art – an art that is without visible or tangible materiality (the three paintings were lost or damaged but have been recently reconstructed by artist Pieter Vermeersch under the auspices of Wilson’s gallery owner, Jan Mot in Brussels). These early paintings testify to the artist’s nascent search for a means to carry abstraction to the next level and in the process to dispense with the need for a physical object. ‘Untitled’ (1966), a tall, vertical acrylic on canvas, about two meters high and one meter wide, declared the fact – and only the fact – of its allover warm red tone, which the artist obtained by thinly staining the canvas to give it an even, matt texture.

Wilson’s last physical objects, ‘Circle on the Floor’ and ‘Circle on the Wall’, were created in early 1968. By making these works, Wilson realized that it was not necessary to produce an object to visualize a concept.

To highlight his importance to the program, the Grazer Kunstverein has devoted a permanent solo exhibition to the artist’s work. The show presents different works throughout the years as well as a permanent display of a commissioned and acquired ‘Discussion’. This discussion on the pure awareness of The Absolute took place at the Grazer Kunstverein on the 4th of May between the artist, current staff and previous directors of the Grazer Kunstverein since 1986.

On display: 
‘Discussion (Grazer Kunstverein)’, 2013
Donated by Stefan Stolitzka for the collection of the Grazer Kunstverein

‘Red Rectangle’, 1966 (2008)
Collection Germaine Kruip, Brussels

The Peacock 
1 February 2013 – 

The Grazer Kunstverein continues to examine its interior by introducing (new) furniture, design, applied and decorative arts that analyze their own functionality. ‘The Peacock’, as this non-stop group show is titled, is inspired by the notion of a Period Room, a room that defines a moment in time, as well as the animal itself, one that represents internal and external pride. A group of artists will be invited to contribute works to enhance the functioning space of Grazer Kunstverein with design pieces and conceptual interventions. (Parts of) these works will reappear and be juxtaposed alongside others in upcoming solo exhibitions and will therefore form the backbone and interior of the Kunstverein. 

Each year The Peacock will have a specific narrator, who will provide a structural narrative to the works on display. Artist and writer Angie Keefer is invited to shape the storyline for 2014.

On display
6 December 2014 – 15 February 2015 

Nina Beier
‘Tragedy’, 2011

A Persian rug that was situated at the entrance of the first gallery became a stage for a performance in which various dog owners visited the exhibition at unannounced times and asked their animals to ‘play dead’ on the rug. The result was an absurd, theatrical gesture in which, for a moment, the pet serves as both still life and “gatekeeper“ to the galleries. The carpet, however, has ever since served different functions throughout its years at the Grazer Kunstverein, therefore questioning its own value and presence. 

Courtesy of the artist and Laura Bartlett Gallery, London

Felix Gonzalez-Torres
‘Untitled’ (Chemo), 1991

Born in Cuba, American artist Gonzalez-Torres (1957–1996) settled in New York in the late 1970s. He participated in the art collective Group Material in the 1980s, was an engaged social activist, and in a relatively short time developed a profoundly influential body of work that can be seen in a critical relationship to Conceptual Art and Minimalism, mixing political critique, emotional affect, and deep formal concerns in a wide range of media, including drawings, sculpture, and public billboards, often using ordinary objects as a starting point — clocks, mirrors, or light fixtures. A manifestation of ‘Untitled’ (Chemo) consists of strands of white, transparent and metallic beads displayed as a passage between two spaces therefore creating a feeling of transcendence. The beads might suggest festive associations and might also be understood to admonish illness and disease. As with so many of Gonzalez-Torres’s artworks, it was conceptually important for the artist that the meaning of the work remains as open as possible and that varying associations are allowed to develop around ‘Untitled’ (Chemo) over time.

On loan from Glenstone

©The Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation
Courtesy of Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York

Ben Kinmont*
‘Congratulations’, 1995

Ben Kinmont (b. 1963 Vermont, USA) is interested in interpersonal communication as a means of addressing the problems of contemporary society. His sculptures and actions attempt to establish a direct, personal relationship between the artist and the viewer, using the work as a mediator. If art is supposed to be an agency of intellectual and emotional challenge, then the artist concludes that the audience should also be addressed beyond the institutional frame of the gallery and the museum, and that contact should be more direct.

For the duration of the exhibition each week fresh flowers will be sent to the gallery accompanied by a card, which reads ‘Congratulations’.

Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Air de Paris, Paris
On loan from the collection Yann Sérandour, Paris

ben kinmont
Ben Kinmont
‘Congratulations’, 1995
Archive begun 1995. DiverseWorks, Houston
Courtesy of the artist and gallery Air de Paris, Paris.
On loan from the collection Yann Sérandour, Paris

Germaine Kruip
‘Square Kannadi’, 2012

In the work of Germaine Kruip (b. 1972, NL) the position of the spectator is often under scrutiny. Following her previous presentation at Grazer Kunstverein, which explored abstraction and ritualism, Kruip presents a mirror from Aranmula (India), which according to the artist’s instructions has been created for the first time in the shape of a square rather than the traditional circle. The mirror has been handmade from an undisclosed alloy of metals and ritually polished to achieve a reflective surface as close to perfect as possible but without ever completely getting rid of its distortion.

Courtesy of the artist and The Approach, London

Nicolás Paris
‘Portable Garden’, 2009–2013

Coming from an architectural background, Nicolás Paris often draws on pedagogical strategies to incorporate elements of collaboration, dialogue and exchange in his work. In order to develop events and places, which encourage the exchange of reflections, Paris’s work is oriented to create dialogue environments for the observer, the exhibition space and the institutions.

Paris’s ‘Portable Garden’ consists of a green pencil, which has these words engraved in it. The pencil is used by the staff to mark the amount of the visitors coming to the Grazer Kunstverein in the period of the exhibition.

Courtesy of the artist and Galeria Luisa Strina, Sao Paulo.

Will Stuart
‘On the positioning of a replica of Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Struttura per parlare in piedi. (Structure for talking while standing) 1965–66, from the series Oggetti in meno (Minus objects), reproduction’, 2012

Positioned wherever negotiated, Will Stuart (Will Holder and Stuart Bailey) present a replica of Struttura per parlare in piedi, a work by Michelangelo Pistoletto (born 1933, Italy) that belongs to his series of Minus Objects.

The work is accompanied by a public notice investigating the original intentions behind the work, and how subsequent negotiations with the various parties involved reflect its ambiguous doubling as furniture (for the public to lean on) and metaphor (for the politics of conversation). The object is an ongoing source of friction during the consideration of space and function within discursive programming.

An exhibition of Michelangelo Pistoletto’s work was organized at the Grazer Kunstverein in 1988.

Courtesy of the artists

Barbara Visser
‘Vereinvögel/ Societybirds’, 2014

The premises of Grazer Kunstverein are quite literally transparent as the façade of the gallery space is completely covered with windows. Visitors and people passing by always peer inside to catch glimpses of the exhibitions or events that take place. Dutch artist, Barbara Visser, explores this public/private tension in a new semi-permanent commission covering most of the institution’s façade. The work of Barbara Visser has been occupied with the uncertain relationship between registration and dramatization. Many of her works deal with the notions of original and copy, and raise the question of whether these copies are ‘well behaved’ and do justice to the original, or whether they are fraudulent signs that swallow up the original in a vortex of delusion. Formally, the work varies greatly, ranging from photography, film and video to printed matter, text and performance yet remaining grounded in recurrent themes such as authenticity and artificiality, perception and cultural coding, convention and exception, reproduction and documentation. By infiltrating existing systems in various ways, and reflecting on them, the artist challenges the viewer to reconsider ingrained perceptions.

Courtesy of the artist and Grazer Kunstverein

*New addition