With Christiane Blattmann, Ryan Cullen, Antonia Phoebe Brown, Rob Birza and Hadrien Gerenton.
The new gallery space kicks off with a group exhibition co-curated with artist Hadrien Gerenton. Although the selected artists’ practices seem to differ greatly, a common thread is the treatment of their subjects. We see common themes like the antropocene, human psychology and sociological questions treated with care, but distance. These subjects are often gratefully used for activist strategies, but the selected artists approach it with a contemplative approach, as a source material for the personality of their own oeuvre.
Antonia Phoebe Brown‘s sculptural works convey both fragility and strength through their sinuous contours and transparency. Using layered fabric and paper suspended between metal forms, she creates an ethereal quality to her pieces. Her interest in the social and symbolic significance of flowers is highlighted by the use of natural pigments to dye the materials. Through her work, Brown explores the movement and transfer of plants as intended acts of dislocation, as well as their cultural history in healing, fertility, and intoxication.
One could say that much of Christiane Blattmann’s work revolves around domains. That could be about the question of inside versus outside, about architecture and its social implications, or about garments, domains in themselves. Le Berceau, 2021 is both a pair of shoes and a pair of buildings. Because of their placement, their particular dimensions and their details, it remains unclear which of the two they are, highlighting their shared ties to cultural phenomena, such as social status or personality.
The two wall pieces, made from silicone cast in cheese cloth question their own domain. Although presented as paintings; stretched on a stretcher, they’re not, like paintings, images-on-carriers; as the cheesecloth is permeated by the silicone, formally they function as tapestries. Moreover; although they’re clearly set up figuratively, due to their sensual quality and repeated patterns, their physical function almost overpowers their visual intention.
Rob Birza is not an artist of style, but of tension. In each of his series, the starting point is a tension; one of decoration versus art, beauty versus ugliness or to what point something is acceptable. The ceramic sculpture shown in the exhibition, from the early 2000s, is from a series of models of fantastic worlds; the series includes a dystopian water park, a Greek death temple, and in the present case, scantily clad women climbing a giant rock shaped like a peanut. Another of Birza’s works included is an adapted painting from a thrift store in the late 1980s. Modifying a found painting of a scene with dogs and birds by superimposing an abstract pattern over it, this may very well be considered one of Birza’s very first taunts of art history and its many conventions.
Ryan Cullen‘s X-ray paintings of concealed objects from airport security machines invoke a sense of humiliation, highlighting the humiliating nature of capitalism’s “totalizing” imperative. This need to know us entirely is both necessary and impossible, and the focus is less on the objects themselves and more on our own concealment as objects. In the painting “Empire,” a business person stands half-submerged in a swimming pool, representing both material and symbolic authority. Their gaze confronts the viewer, while the perspective suggests vulnerability, looking up from a submerged position. These images exist at the intersection of picture and sign/symbol, allowing for a reduction or interpretation in either direction, either towards symbolic abstraction or specific figuration.
The recent work of Hadrien Gerenton is characterized by a vast vocabulary of anthropomorphic, organic, and chemical figures that have grown into an ecosystem where nature has regained territory, erasing the scars of human history. Gerenton employs strategies from surrealism to explore phenomena discussed in the writings of ecological and ontological writers such as Graham Harman, Timothy Morton, and Donna Haraway. Ingrid Lurquet Gad has specifically noted the resonance of Gerenton’s work with Haraway’s philosophy, which emphasizes the importance of non-human life and the interconnectedness of all beings. His work is particularly resonant with Haraway’s philosophy of the Chthulucene, a term she coined to describe a future where humans and non-humans can coexist in harmony, recognizing the interdependence of all entities.