Current group shows at Jordaan-area galleries Gabriel Rolt and Ron Mandos don’t pretend to be anything other than compilations of artworks that the gallerists enjoy. In the case of the former, this categorization can be extended to “by artists the gallery represents or works with,” in the latter, “by recent art school graduates from around the Netherlands.”
While I normally have little patience for post hoc themed group shows, neither of these galleries puts forth a theme for their exhibitions, a fact that somehow tempers my knee-jerk group show petulance. Instead, both just put the work out there and ask us to enjoy it, purchase it even! And somehow I am okay with this. In fact, I kind of liked it.
The first thing I thought when I saw the list of twenty artists to be included in the Gabriel Rolt Summershow was: How on earth are they going to squeeze so many works into that space?! “Salon-style” answers that question, and this horror-vacui curatorial approach made me notice something about the gallery that I hadn’t before. With so many artworks, big and small, neatly arranged from floor to ceiling, a pattern started to emerge. I won’t go so far as to say a theme, because that would counter my earlier complaints about group shows, but dare I say a sort of aesthetic identity, previously unnoticed, began to reveal itself to me. The artworks include paintings, collages, prints, drawings, sculptures, and photographs… and yet they worked together. No particular artists stole the show, but instead a portrait of the gallery emerged in a nebulous web woven between the picture frames of its constituents.
Individual artworks combine to form a whole that is distinct from the sum of its parts. The Gabriel Rolt suggested here adores the youthful and ethereal, something playful and delicate, yet dark and mysterious. The works are intimate, like Masao Yamamoto’s tiny prints, Anna Bjerger’s subtle nudes, and Aisling Hedgecock’s hypnotizing drawings. In this context, even the dark, large-scale works of Nik Christensen, Adam Broomberg, and Oliver Chanarin suddenly seem precious and enchanting, like a fairytale. I wouldn’t go so far as to say any of the represented artists embody all these characteristics independently, but taken in combination, I got a definite impression of the gallery’s tastes.
At Ron Mandos’ annual Best of Graduates show, none of the artists are represented by the gallery, but nevertheless the selection feels very… Ron Mandos. There are lots of paintings, many figurative in some way, a number of rough-around-the-edges wooden sculptures, brightly colored video installations (some portraits, some impressionistic), and some easily read, but aesthetically pleasing photographs. I could envision any of these shown at Ron Mandos (and indeed, the winner of the Ron Mandos Young Blood Award will have a further relationship with the gallery), but not necessarily at its neighboring galleries. If Martin van Zomeren, Diana Stigter, or Cokkie Snoei chose their favorite student work, we might expect to see a completely different selection.
I was enchanted by Mio Hanaoka’s misty greenhouse filled with books rotting on tree stumps, one of the few pieces I wouldn’t necessarily expect to see in the gallery, and I was intrigued by Puck Verkade’s Any Day Now, a video introducing an end-of-days religious fringe group preoccupied with a tsunami that will wipe out the Netherlands. Femke Dekkers’ photographic illusions in perspective were not particularly new, but were extremely well done and very of the moment, as were Jonas Wijtenburg’s large wooden installations. Erik van Liere’s painted panels showed great promise, and photographer Olivier van Breugel’s impeccable compositions of businesspeople and urban architecture were undeniably charming.
There was little surprising about the artwork in the exhibition, but I wouldn’t have expected that here. All in all, the work seemed very on trend with contemporary artistic practice in a variety of media. I didn’t love everything -- student work always demonstrates varying levels of sophistication – but the selections seem appropriate for Ron Mandos and suggest a bright future for many of the young artists.
~Andrea Alessi, a writer living in the Netherlands.
(Images: Installation view; Courtesy Andrea Alessi; Niek Hendrix, Het vermoeden I, 38x51 cm, Olieverf op doek op paneel; Mio Hanaoka, Presence, 2011, 3x2x2.2 m, rotten books, tree trunks, glass house, mist machine; Maarten van den Bos, Leaning Head, 2011, 50 x 60 cm, Oil on canvas; Courtesy Ron Mandos)