Collection on Display
09 Feb - 21 Apr 2013
His Vanity Requires No Response, 2011
Carpet, plaster, clay, metal, wood, mirror, paint, india ink, wire
Ca. 70 x 200 x 400 cm
Heidi Bucher, Thea Djordjadze, Berta Fischer, Loredana Sperini, Katja Strunz
9 February – 21 April 2013
Collection on Display presents selected works from the collection of the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst. The first two presentations from the collection to be held in 2013 continue the exhibition cycle on contemporary sculptural praxis launched last year. The works by Heidi Bucher, Thea Djordjadze, Berta Fischer, Loredana Sperini, and Katja Strunz on display in the second chapter of the exhibition examine the status of sculpture and the ways it is perceived, and reflect the history and transformations of sculptural praxis.
In recent years, issues of sculpture have been a major focus of the exhibition programming at the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst and the museum’s efforts to enlarge its collection. The threepart presentation of works from the collection brings together works that raise questions concerning the possibilities of sculptural production. As a genre, sculpture—whether figural or abstract—occupied a central position in the history of art from the classical age to the modernist era. As the art historian Rosalind Krauss has argued, since the onset of postmodernism, the conception of sculpture has been expanded as its boundaries have become blurry—sculpture has quite literally been knocked off its pedestal. Sculptural work has expanded into a variety of media and materials, exploring the possibilities of space. The second chapter unites works distinguished by their critical engagement with different materials and their specific connotations and potentials. The five artists whose works will be on display in this chapter use fragile materials evincing traces of use, but also everyday staples and organic matter, exploring their sculptural qualities.
The sculptures of Thea Djordjadze (b. 1971) are fragile arrangements of used objects such as building materials and articles from the domestic sphere. She also often uses artifacts that carry specific cultural connotations (e.g., carpets). Djordjadze’s sculptural conglomerates form fragments that gesture toward familiar everyday spatial elements or situations and their uses. At the same time, the unfinished and raw surfaces and seemingly temporary arrangements of objects refer to sculptural and architectural forms of classic modernism. Djordjadze usually conceives her works as site-specific, with reference to the local history and culture. The work Ohne Titel (2011), for example, was created for the group show Melanchotopia initiated by the Witte de With, Rotterdam, which was held at exhibition sites scattered all over the city: in existing empty display cases at the Groot Handelsgebouw, an old trading house built during the postwar boom years, Djordjadze installed various sculptures made of painted glass panes that recalled the shapes of pieces of furniture. The sculpture Place of His Disaffection (2011), a plaster-coated piece of foam padding, suggests a mattress. His Vanity Requires No Response was made for the exhibition of the same title at the Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis. The work’s title quotes a line from the third section of T. S. Eliot’s epic poem The Waste Land.
The works of the artist Katja Strunz (b. 1970) take up an avant-garde legacy, unfolding between a formal constructivism and references to (post)modernist utopias. The principle of assemblage - which is to say, the combination of different forms and materials—sustains a process that coalesces into an overall appearance that may be read as illusionistic as well as abstract. The work Rheingold (1998/2008) consists of an old rowboat that has disintegrated into fragments and stranded on an abstract glass construction reminiscent of a lake. The simple formal vocabulary used to suggest an abstraction of a landscape with boat evokes metaphorical and poetic images. Strunz pursues a romanticized idea of land art as proposed by Robert Smithson’s sketches for crystalline and utopian architectures, while the title, citing an opera by Richard Wagner, also gestures toward the spirit of a mythical German romanticism.
The works of Loredana Sperini (b. 1970) similarly suggest associations of mythologies by staging encounters between abstract and organic-figurative formal vocabularies. Arranged on a mirrored surface is a stacked heap of branches, some of their ends coated in wax. Amid the dry wood, the beholder espies casts of hands in colored wax. A recurrent central feature of Sperini’s art is experimentation with different techniques and materials. The visual cosmos of the sculptural installation, heightened by the contrasts between materials and forms, is paradigmatic of her oeuvre. She develops this cosmos in various media and employing highly time-consuming traditional manual techniques that always also render forms of temporality visible. The artist came to renown primarily with her kaleidoscopic web-like embroideries. In her more recent works, Sperini translates this abstractsurreal and yet figurative visual language into wax and concrete reliefs and three-dimensional works in space.
Berta Fischer’s (b. 1973) works examine questions of abstraction vis-à-vis a classic figurative motif.
By using fragile materials and delicate structures, Fischer explores the potential of formal creation while calling its permanence in question. For years, the artist worked primarily in plexiglass and other industrially prefabricated materials such as nylon threads and plastic foils. Fischer’s sculptures may be read as a response to the rigid minimalism of the 1960s and 1970s, an art based on industrial materials and dominated by emphatically male artists. Her sculptures made of neon-colored acrylic glass address the transparency and fragility of this material, which is heightened by the incidence of light. In the style of an “écriture automatique,” an unchecked stream of consciousness as envisioned by the historic Surrealists, these fragile structures whirr through space and leave behind a frozen image.
The artist Heidi Bucher (1926–1993) came to be known in the 1970s and 1980s for her latex skinnings of architectures in space. No less central to her art is the engagement with the analogy between clothes and the house as media of mental and historical remnants, as “vestments” that have the potential to preserve the psychological traces of wearers or residents. The cycle of works entitled Body Shells (1972–1973) exemplifies the early period in the Swiss artist’s oeuvre. Working in Los Angeles in collaboration with her then husband, Carl Bucher, she created sculptures out of foam material whose outsides she daubed with mother-of-pearl, a material to which the artist would return again later on. They are portable pieces that recall organic materials or strange sea creatures while also being inspired by the futuristic fashion of the era. With her family, she staged a performance on the beach at Venice Beach on which the film on display in the exhibition is based. The show also features sketches with details executed in mother-of-pearl, preparatory works that document the development of the sculptures, as well as a set of latex objects.