Juliètte Jongma


21 Jun - 26 Jul 2008

Donna Huddleston, Ursula Mayer and Karen Sargsyan

The three-person group exhibition Pierroting takes its cue from the well-known commedia dell’arte stock character Pierrot. The Pierrot character is an ambiguous figure – typically associated with kitsch and cheap sentimentality, but traditionally used as a silent device of reflection.
In Pierroting, the work of three artists is set against the contemporary possibilities of this historical figure. Theatre and the visual arts have influenced each other heavily throughout history – recent interest addresses feminist legacies, the relation between viewer and object, and its influence on the perception of the real in contemporary western society. The context of this exhibition derives from this renewed interest in the re-enactment of theatricality and attempts to set out a direct dialogue between visual arts and theatre. The exhibition highlights works by Donna Huddleston, Ursula Mayer and Karen Sargsyan in collaboration with Theatre ‘T Barre Land.

“Is that all there is?” sings Peggy Lee whilst three personifications of iconic Hollywood actresses face the one dimensional fantasy of their film image in Ursula Mayer’s film Crystal Gaze(2007). The film revolves around the modern myth of narcissism, in which the self- image is constructed through the cinematic gaze. Single statements, monologues and quotes narrate the disillusion of the film image accompanied by the artificial context of a twenties Hollywood film, filmed in the setting of an art-deco interior.
This theatrical context is also emphasized in her photo series entitled Dramatic Personalities after Mary Wigam and Madame d'Ora (2008), in which Mayer explores modernist choreographic composition by reworking and restaging a series of photographs of performances of the Mary Wigram Dance Company photographed by Dora Kallmus. Alongside the choreographic body compositions the artist has added modernist sculptures to the re-enacted scene based on works by artist Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975). This single intervention juxtaposes the theatrical body with modernist formal vocabulary, by which all human spontaneity of the act of dance seems to be replaced by an artificial arranged act of re- enactment.
By pointing out this manipulative quality of re-enactment in media as film and photography, the artist questions the contemporary meaning of fact and fiction.

Theatrical aesthetics of historical genres like art-deco and modernist forms can also be found in Donna Huddlestons drawings and sculptures. Although there is a strong similarity in the use of visual details between both artists, Huddleston’s work is more concerned with the historical sign language of the theatre, such as costumes and follies.
The watercolor drawings on paper depict rosy-cheeked clownesque figures wearing costumes that remind us of early 20th century avant-garde designs by Malevich and El Lissitzky. The figures turn into inert form through their repeated transitions into geometric elements, which suggest both a certain systematic approach in the drawing process itself as in the theatrical process of turning visual reality in an abstraction of it. The latter process is also emphasized in the rectangled shaped sculpture decorated with modernist forms occupying part of the gallery wall. The sculpture recollects thoughts of an ordinary domestic pelmut and suggests the presence of a window through its location and shapes, just as a minimal intervention on stage can represent a whole atmosphere through its associative quality.

Karen Sargsyan approaches the features of the theatre as metaphors for human behavior. The primitive looking masks worn by staggering fragile figures made out of paper and iron mostly represent scenes from myths, histories or religions and refer both in content and material to the venerability and changeability of human civilization.
For this exhibition the artist will present a sculpture based on Stefan Themerson’s book “Wooff! Woof! or who killed Richard Wagner” (1951), a story that turns the normal into the absurd. Alongside the sculpture theatre ’t Barreland will perform a play based on the same narrative. The paper figures will now function as puppet’s on a string, moving around the storyline and provoking a direct dialog between art and theatre.

Ursula Mayer (AU/1970) lives and works in London. In 2007 Mayer won the mrsg. Otto Mauer Preis for fine arts. She has had recent solo exhibitions in the Museum of Modern Art in Linz and Het Centraal Museum in Utrecht and was included in several group exhibitions.

Donna Huddleston (IR/1972) lives and works in London (UK). In 2005 she was shortlisted
For the Max Mara Art Prize. She had a solo exhibition in Galerie Juliette Jongma in 2006 en was included in several group shows in Europe.

Karen Sargsyan (AR/1973) lives and works in Amsterdam. The artist is currently an artist in residence at Villa Romana in Florence and was recipient of last year’s Thieme Award. He recently had a solo exhibition at Bob van Orsouw / Suzy Q Projects in Zurich and was included in several group exhibitions. Sargsyan was an artist in residence at the Rijksakademie Amsterdam in 2006-2007.

Tags: Barbara Hepworth, Donna Huddleston, El Lissitzky, Kazimir Malevich, Ursula Mayer, Karen Sargsyan