Gerber’s practice focuses on the normative aspects of visual language: the way
we, as part of a shared culture, accept certain forms, colors and situations
as institutional, or we take them for granted as impartial common ground.
These visual norms act as grounds for all other forms of expression and we use
them to register difference and create meaning. This exhibition asks viewers
to acknowledge but question the authority of the things we are looking at,
often by putting their cultural, ideological, and religious connotations in
Gerber’s work often acts as the contextual ground for the expression of other
artists. In this exhibition, Gerber continues to examine the role of the
contextual ground in the interpretation of art and to foreground the
background or context as an expressive element itself. In doing so, he focuses
attention on his use of other artists' expressions as a normative ground
against which his own expression can be recognized. In some instances Gerber’s
work is used as the ground for other artists’ expression and in turn, he also
uses other artists’ work as the ground for his work.
As a result, everything in the exhibition is acknowledged as alternately both
support and expression. This overt conflation of roles directly confronts the
permeability between these distinctions. In Support, oil paint on Optimal
Model 121 by Joe Colombo, Gerber paints directly over the designer’s
expression. In making Colombo’s pipe into a painting, Gerber echoes Rene!
Magritte’s painting La Trahison des Images, which presents an image of a pipe,
captioned with the words “This is not a pipe”. In both artists’ work the use
of a framing device is employed to contradict viewers’ assessment that the
item is a pipe. Gerber’s deliberate reprise of Magritte’s point that the image
is not the object also draws special attention to history as a context that
influences how we understand image and object alike.
In Support/Untitled, Heimo Zobernig paints directly on top of Gerber’s
Support, repainting its original gray color white (an alternate neutral) thus
questioning the ground’s claims to impartiality. In Untitled (Gerber) by Liz
Deschenes, Deschenes acknowledges the conditional quality of Gerber’s ground
but in an entirely different way by photographing his Backdrop and
representing it as an image, reiterating that image and object are not
synonymous. In a number of other artworks in the exhibition, all titled
Support, Gerber again reasserts the ground as an expression by directly
painting on top of two versions of Lucio Fontana’s Concetto Spaziale Cratere
as well as a group of "traditional” African artifacts, dramatically contesting
the idea of creation as an enduring presence and instead returning to the
notion of creation as a performative act linked with destruction. In doing so,
Gerber affirms the timelessness of this sentiment, which is shared by all the
pieces of this exhibition.
Gaylen Gerber has exhibited widely. More recent solo exhibitions and
cooperative projects include: Kunstverein Ruhr, Essen, Germany; Musee! d'Art
Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg; The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago,
Illinois; Neues Museum Weserburg Bremen, Bremen, Germany; Kunsthalle Bern,
Bern, Switzerland; Fonds Re! gional d'Art Contemporain de Bourgogne and
Musee! des Beaux-Arts, Dijon, France among others.