14th November 2011 – 12th November 2012
Painting is a Painting is a Painting
John M Armleder, Rashid Johnson & Dirk Skreber
A portrait of three artists working today
Art from the Frank Cohen Collection at INITIAL ACCESS.
A Selection by Nicolai Frahm & Samuel Leuenberger
Painting is a Painting is a Painting is the ninth exhibition at Initial Access, presenting three artists working today who all playfully question what constitutes ‘a painting’. John M Armleder (CH), Rashid Johnson (USA) & Dirk Skreber (D) come from very different backgrounds, working visually, conceptually, even ideologically very differently, but all challenge our expectations of what a painting can, feel and look like.
The exhibition title adapts Gertrude Stein’s 1913 poem, Sacred Emily, ‘a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose’: in Stein’s view, using the name of a thing immediately invokes emotions, expectations and ideas. This exhibition presents artists who adopt the language of painting, but present it on a larger scale, creating a grander impact that allows the viewer to collaborate in the narrative of the final work.
Works by Dirk Skreber such as Untitled, 2000 (exploding house) present the dystopian vision typical of his work, distorting elements of form, perspective and nature. Skreber’s work has a sculptural quality, his canvases bound with thick duct tape that elevates the painted surface. Armleder’s Tactylis Glomerata and Fomes Fomentarius heave with layer upon layer of poured technicolour paint and glitter, works produced on industrial scale that have little evidence of the artist’s hand in play but rather ‘expose’ a process. Untitled, 2008 triptych of two mirrors and an electric guitar takes the form of high religious art, but uses very modern materials. Rashid Johnson’s floor and wall works have a luscious physicality, Souls of Black Folk, 2010 consist of tiled shelves filled with objects redolent with Afro-American symbolism, books, shea butter, LP covers, moon rock. Johnson creates a new non-recognisable landscape of images, ‘all of the materials miscegenat[ing] into a new language’.
All three artists engage in a great variety of artistic practices from sculpture to photography to graffiti, incorporating domestic items, images and iconic symbols from mass media into their work, but they always return to the seductive nature of painting. The resulting amalgam, sometimes even Gesamtkunstwerk, invites questions of the very nature of painting itself, long before we consider questions of social, artistic, personal and political interpretation.