V&B (formerly known as Villeroy & Boch) is an artist duo formed by Alex Jacobs and Ellemieke Schoenmaker in 2007. Their work focuses on two, two and half and three dimensions working in several media including painting, installation, sculpture and video. In their monumental, colourful paintings and installations they regularly feature themselves as (anti-) heroes, holding their own in an overcoded society.
The Netherlands has a strong tradition of painters who put artistic issues such as shape, surface and brushstroke first and foremost. V&B, on the other hand, focus on the expressiveness of the image and the symbolic force of theillustration. This places them within a large circle of young artists who rediscover painting as a medium of strong personal expressiveness. The artistic research of these artists concerns the role of art and the place that the art of painting has in the world that they depict. They represent a self-critical generation with social engagement.
Ellemieke Schoenmaker (1968) and Alex Jacobs (1973) are familiar names in the art world. Schoenmaker is a painter of beautiful, mystical landscapes and is part of the collective Kimberly Clark with Iris van Dongen. Alex Jacobs makes installations, sculptures and paintings in which he regularly puts himself and art into perspective.In 2008, he received the Dutch Royal Prize for Painting. Social status, money and power are subjects that V&B often portray in their paintings. In Desperate Ambition (2008) we see a woman hitchhiking. She stands in front of a large landscape painting, as if that is the road she wants to take. It is unclear whether the fashionably dressed woman will ever get to travel, but it is clear where she wants to go: her hitchhike sign says ‘Basel’, the city where the largest and most important international art fair is held, and where the careers of artists are made and broken. On the painting Escaping Criticism (2009), we see the painting duo sneaking off to the back of the canvas like thieves in the night. It is precisely the back of the canvas that we see: although the artists are hiding, they know that the public ultimately determines the value of their work.
V&B compile their images through staging a situation, photographing it and then either adapting it or supplementing it with computer-generated images from the Internet. The painting is not a reflection but rather a reconsideration or appropriation of the resulting image. The works are large-size paintings in a realistic and sometimes photo-realistic style. Contemporary street furniture such as a rubbish bin and a telephone kiosk, trendy clothing and (aerosol) colours such as bright yellow, light orange and fresh green, give the painting a modern appearance. Recognizable objects flow out amorphously, paint becomes matter, and aerosol is used to conceal parts or create hip colour accents. And yet, behind the vivid use of colour; the free allusions to the domain of art; and the up tempo battle between form and content, hides a critical vision of the way in which mankind shapes its culture and makes use of it.
V&B started their cooperation during a residency at RAID projects in Los Angeles in 2007. Mark Moore Gallery (Los Angeles), Co-Prosperity Sphere (Chicago), Gemeente Museum (The Hague), Grimmuseum (Berlin), Actionfields (Brussel), KNIPSU (Bergen) and HatyuHaz (Pécs) are just some of the galleries they have done solo and group shows in the last four years. V&B are represented in corporate and private collections in both US and Europe.
V&B (formerly known a Villeroy& Boch) Alex Jacobs & Ellemieke Schoenmaker
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