In his exhibition at 65GRAND, Philip von Zweck proves he is an artist that cannot be pinned down easily. Von Zweck's output could variously be described as social practice and conceptual art. Von Zweck is also a frequent curator, as well as a gallerist maintaining VONZWECK in his home from 2005-2008 for a total of twenty-eight solo exhibitions. But throughout all his other projects von Zweck has maintained a painting studio practice, something that there was a glimpse of in 2009 at his solo exhibition at threewalls, “The Fortieth Anniversary of the First Anniversary of May '68 (in September).”
Forgoing any overt political or social references, or any references at all, von Zweck presents an untitled exhibition of untitled abstract paintings. As von Zweck is quoted about his paintings in the exhibition statement:
“They are not illustrations, they are not provocations, they are not theoretical, they are not conceptual, there is nothing to get, they are not the result of some clinical process, they are not left to chance, they are not consistent, they do not correspond to rules, they do not reference each other, they are not smart, they are not dumb, they are not windows looking into or out of anything.”
Obviously deliberate on the artist’s part, the exhibition is a satisfying return to aesthetics and visuality. This is something of a change from von Zweck’s previous project at MDW Fair, a copy stand that made editioned copies of original works on paper, conflating and complicating notions of authorship, ownership, desire, and originality. (It was presented under the auspices of artist, critic and ArtSlant writer Steve Ruiz’s Chicago Art Review website.)
At 65GRAND, von Zweck presents wholly abstract works, almost all of which take color as their sole interest. With denials about the work, and no titles whatsoever, the result is that one is left to focus only the work itself.
The 2009 show at threewalls seemed to indicate two paths the artist was working along, one of pattern and one of color. His new work shows that the paths maybe converge in a profitable way. The formerly pronounced distinctions between blocks of color have been softened allowing vibrating hues to interact in fascinating ways, as is the case with the painting that morphs from green to peach to yellow, from the edges to the center.
The most remarkable piece on view is directly across from the gallery entrance. Appearing at first as an all white painting, hints of yellow and brown peek out unexpectedly, like the afterimage from looking at the sun. Just as you think you’ve fully seen the painting, it shifts slightly, demanding a second and third look. I think I returned to this piece about six times during my visit, to stare yet again.
Philip von Zweck. Untitled, 2011. Acrylic and enamel on canvas. 14 x 11 in. Courtesy of the artist and 65GRAND.
A single pattern painting is shown here and has departed from the 2009 pieces that I found a bit to close to plaid or tartan. Blue strips go over a silver ground, but further inspection reveals more layers, more process. Soon colors separate and questions of time and application assert themselves. Many false starts emerge, leaving the final choices all the more interesting. True to the statement, things are not left to chance, nor held to process.
The paintings, satisfying as they are, the largest exhibited are only 14” x 11” leaving von Zweck the challenge of working large scale. I, for one, hope he takes up this challenge, if these pieces offer a hint of what could come. That said, I fully expect that his next exhibition may not be of painting.
-Abraham Ritchie, Senior Editor ArtSlant: Chicago
(Top right: Philip von Zweck. Untitled, 2010. Acrylic and enamel on canvas. 12 x 9 in. Courtesy of the artist and 65GRAND.)