PINTURA (AÚN) - Painting (Still)
Bernard Frize, On Kawara, Raoul de Keyser, Jonathan Monk, Günter Umberg, Christopher Wool, Rèmy Zaugg / Curated by Ignasi Aballí.
The Galería Elba Benítez ends the season with Pintura (Aún), a project created by the artist Ignasi Aballí (Barcelona, 1958) in which he surveys the current state of painting through the artworks of seven artists who have, moreover, been a source of inspiration for his own work.
Pintura (Aún) is the start of a new endeavour that will be part of the exhibition schedule at the Galería Elba Benítez whereby each year one of the gallery's artists will be invited to develop a curatorial project at the venue. This initiative seeks to open alternative paths for approaching work by the gallery's artists, where there will be ample room also to explore questions such as their artistic interests, concerns and thoughts.
An exploration of the painting process is a constant in the work of Ignasi Aballí. At the beginning of his career he used it as the main subject of his exhibitions and publications, such as Pintures? (Centro de Lectura de Reus, 1988), Joven pintura española (Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores, which toured a number of countries),
1989), and Painting Simulations, Howar Yezerski Gallery (Boston, 1990), but soon he would abandon it as a technique -though still recurring to it often as a material to reflect on- in order to develop his work in other mediums. A good example of his subsequent use of it is his Carta de Colores suite, which reproduces and groups different colours together according to the arrangement of conventional colour cards, while at the same time he associates the colours with names, ideologies, biographies, various products and the occasional text about colour theory.
Taking painting, in the most traditional sense of the word, as his reference, the work of Ignasi Aballí has never ceased to be painterly, despite the fact that he uses other techniques and mediums, such as photography, installations and video.
Coinciding with this exhibition Ignasi Aballí will inaugurate his show Fotografía para jardines on the 4 June, as part of the official programme of Photoespaña 2008, which together with Pintura (Aún) offers us a chance to see his work and approach from different angles. Ignasi Aballí (Barcelona, 1958) was included in the official selection at last year's 52nd Venice Biennale located at the Giardini and the Arsennale. He has had solo shows at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (MNCARS), the Museu d´Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), the ZKM (Karlsruhe, Germany), the Ikon Gallery (Birmingham, UK) and at the Museu Serralves de Oporto (Portugal), to mention just a few.
By Ignasi Aballí, November 2007
The Elba Benítez Gallery of Madrid, asked me to plan an exhibition about painting and to explore the medium through a selection of artists of my own choice. I have analyzed and admired the work of Christopher Wool, Rèmy Zaugg, On Kawara, Günter Umberg, Bernard Frize and Raoul De Keyser for many years now. I feel a great affinity to all of them in terms of their point of view and the way they approach the act of painting, and at the same time I admit to profound admiration and connection with their works, which on many occasions have acted as an stimulus and a reaction to the questions I have posed as an artist.
A variety of signs indicate that painting is going through a time of crisis, albeit a crisis that affects its contribution as an artistic language in the contemporary world, rather than the amount being produced and its prominence at exhibitions. This apparent contradiction between quality and quantity, in my opinion, may be clearly evidenced if one makes a quick inspection of the current state of output in this medium. I will comment briefly on the reasons generating the act of painting, at a time when there appear to be few motives to justify doing so.
Today the practice of painting demands having exhaustive knowledge, the more the better, about the artistic developments in the 20th century and acting in consequence. Like Catherine Millet says, "one needs to be aware of the iconoclastic movements that have succeeded one another over the last hundred years, and not act as though they never existed". She goes on to state there is no future to an approach that ignores this, the most interesting path being to treat painting as a traditional practice, with the knowledge that Duchamp, Kosuth and Weiner existed. Nowadays painting involves, therefore, an exercise of historical awareness and conceptual rigor.
The artists chosen to participate in this exhibition fulfill all of these considerations. They all use painting in a traditional sense, but at the same time question and challenge that tradition. Their works directly confront the difficulty and even the impossibility facing the practice of painting today. All of them seem conscious that the future holds little in store for painting, unless this future embraces a strategic announcement of the manner of its own demise, thus contributing a critical, insightful viewpoint engaging with contemporaneity and history. All these artists offer viable solutions to the problematic and difficult situation of present day painting.
Christpher Wool, Rèmy Zaugg, On Kawara, Günter Umberg and Bernard Frize, share, in my opinion, a sensibility we could describe as painting's "terminal phase", or at least the end of a type of painting fully aware of its bleak prospects and exploring new methods to develop alternative proposals allowing it to take part in the debate about what it means to work in art today and why it is still worthwhile to do so.
The artworks by these painters are dissimilar both conceptually and stylistically, but they all reflect this consideration about what it means to continue to produce images in a world in which the image has absolute power and prominence in all areas of our lives.
Christopher Wool has developed a style akin to Expressionism and urban graffiti, and his oeuvre features irony and criticism of art and contemporary society. He achieves this by using text and by striking out previously made images, in this fashion demonstrating a kind of dissatisfaction with the results obtained.
The work of Swiss painter Rèmy Zaugg performs a rigorous, exhaustive and in-depth analysis of the basic elements of the artwork and the perceptive act, and likewise of the onlooker's role as an active participant facing the artwork.
The "Date paintings" by On Kawara represent a highly conceptual approach. From a technical point of view they are paintings, but their content radically questions the painting tradition, rethinking aspects such as style and originality.
Günter Umberg's monochrome, for the most part black, paintings confront us with the absence of the image, with sightlessness. These dark and profound surfaces operate as a device that interacts with the space in which they are exhibited. In this manner, his images expand beyond the edges of the frame. One could say that his artworks begin exactly where their physical limits end.
Prior to the execution of his artworks Bernard Frize employs a methodology to eliminate any chance of surprise or change during the process of realization. These prior, self-imposed conditions determine the end result.
Jonathan Monk, who is not a painter, employs an approach along the lines of conceptual art, which incorporates artworks by other contemporary artists (who are painters), and views them in a different light. His pieces contain a large dose of humor and irony with regard to the various languages of art and the quotidian. These simple gestures help him perform a sophisticated and complex rereading of recent art history.
From a traditional point of view, the work of Raoul de Keyser is more strictly painting than that of any of the other artists who are part of this exhibition. His is a introverted painting, executed slowly, that blends the figurative and the abstract. He manages to create extremely evocative images possessing a strong poetic quality by means of highly austere stylistic and material devices.
On view until July 2008.
For more information about the exhibition or the artists:
Luisa Espino. Tel. + 34 91 308 04 68