25 July – 29 August 2020
10 – 12 September 2020
Gallery Weekend Berlin
Christine Roland and Kara Hamilton
At Kurfürstenstraße 156
Site-specific installation at Henry Art Gallery
University of Washington, Seattle
11 June 2020 – 7 February 2021
Suzanne Hudson, World of Art: Contemporary Painting, Thames & Hudson
Olomouc Triennale 2020: The Universal, curated by Gina Renotière
Diversity United. Contemporary European Art
Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
11 November 2020 – 21 February 2021
Undo Things Done Exhibition Tour
Senedd, National Assembly for Wales
26 July – 9 September 2020
Masculinities: Liberation through Photography
Barbican Centre, London; Luma Foundation, Arles, and Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin
Tanya Leighton Gallery, Berlin, established in 2008, is dedicated to developing a cross-disciplinary, trans-generational gallery programme with off-site projects, in collaboration with artists, filmmakers, critics, art historians, and curators. Its international exhibition programme reflects a variety of opinions and practices as well as Leighton’s associations with American and British experimental cinema, artist’s film and video, performance, minimal and conceptual art.
Director: Simon Gowing
Director: Patrick Armstrong
Gallery Manager: Melanie Isabel García
Finance Manager: Stefan Schuster
Tanya Leighton GmbH
Kurfürstenstraße 156 & 24/25
Open Tuesday – Saturday
11am – 6pm and by appointment
David Bellingham, Pierre Bismuth, Pavel Büchler, Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson, Sean Edwards, Harald Falkenhagen, Leo Fitzmaurice, Dean Hughes, Jonathan Monk, Martine Myrup, Bruce McLean, Maeve Rendle, Pamela Rosenkranz, Amikam Toren, Steven van den Bosch
The Way We Do Art Now
1 May – 5 June 2010, Tanya Leighton, Berlin
"There's a story about a Roman wall painter who tried and tried to paint the foam on a horse's mouth. He just couldn't get it right. And in disgust, he threw a sponge at the horse and the sponge left a mark right on the horse's nostril that looked exactly like the foam. And so, he simply added a few more strokes and he had a perfect representation of the foam he had worked so hard to depict. This is probably the birth of abstract art and it is probably the beginning of how we do art now." - John Baldessari, The Way We Do Art Now (The Birth of Abstract Art), 1973
The works in 'The Way We Do Art Now', an exhibition selected by Pavel Büchler for Tanya Leighton Gallery, have come together through Büchler's preference for art that resists the egocentrism of 'expression' by the modesty of the artist's gesture. They were made at various times over the past forty years, by a dozen artists from the UK and continental Europe, better or less well known, whose individual practices and artistic priorities have little in common, yet they share a commitment to an economy of means and scale, and a sense of understatement with which they encourage our curiosity and provoke imagination.
In their diverse ways, the works explore what artists do and how they go about doing it, how they make sense by insisting on doing what ostensively makes no sense in itself. Some seem to promote idleness, even boredom, as if to evade the banality of production and cultural waste; others do what it takes and embrace with overt determination the futility of artistic labour, the paradox of a job not really worth doing but needing to be done nonetheless.
From the earliest work in the exhibition, Bruce McLean's irreverent film 'homage' to Robert Morris In The Shadow of Your Smile, Bob, 1970, to the most recent one, Büchler's own watercolour rendering of the typewritten film title of John Baldessari's The Way We Do Art Now, many of the works acknowledge the Beckettian spirit of the challenge of art itself and of its recent history. Equally many, like those of Amikam Toren or David Bellingham, for instance, meticulously transform objects into ideas only to let the object determine the outcome.
There are echoes and resonances between such works as Pierre Bismuth's unfolded origamis and Martine Myrup's mountain range raising from the fragments of pictures on the spines of a small arrangements of books on a shelf, or between Harald Falkenhagen's rapidly noted inconsequential comments on weather ('yesterday, today and tomorrow') and Dean Hughes' refilling of dried out puddles on a rare sunny morning in Edinburgh. But such provisional connections and ephemeral coincidences offer no guidance to the interpretation of the works on display nor do they diminish the distance between the work done by the artists and that left to the viewers to do. For Büchler, they are at best like the rhymes in a poem: to entice thinking and perhaps aid the memory of the moment once the exhibition is gone and the works are on their way to their next destinations.
The Way We Do Art Now
Frieze, June/July/August, 2010
The idea of art as something one may ‘do’ rather than ‘make’ has its roots in the 1960s, when Conceptual art turned art-making on its head, allowing all sorts of unlikely practices into its remit, like reading, writing, video-making, performing or even happening. The title of this exhibition, ‘The Way We Do Art Now’, is borrowed from John Baldessari’s 1973 film, a spoof on the endless possibilities of art practice in which ‘the birth of abstract art and […] probably the beginning of how we do art now’ is described in anecdotal form as occurring when an ancient Roman wall painter threw a sponge at his painting in frustration, and through this act achieved the effect he had been searching for.
The Way We Do Art (after John Baldessari) (2010) is also the title of a work in the show by UK-based Czech artist Pavel Büchler, who curated the exhibition of 16 artists. The title is painted in watercolour on a large piece of paper, copied from the typed-out title as it appears in Baldessari’s film. Reference, practice and subject are all tied together in a tight conceptual knot – characteristics that come up in many of the works Büchler chose for this subtly thought provoking show.
The exhibition opened during the fourth edition of Berlin’s annual Gallery Weekend, a coordinated opening of exhibitions at some 40 participating galleries, with many other galleries (including this one) organizing concurrent events for the throngs of visitors descending on the city. In the face of the prodigious scale of this extravaganza, in which the great quantity of art production and its attendant mediation was a ready distraction from critical discernment, this exhibition posed pertinent questions about the ways and means and, crucially, the why of art making now. Though the works were mostly modest in scale and execution, the show possessed an ambitious concept and brought together a tight if disparate collection of works that mined a post-Conceptual vein, while resisting any notion of a separation between art and life.
Method, medium and meaning converge in many of the works. Jonathan Monk’s tautological film Two Correlated Rotations (2004), a 16mm film on a simple looping machine documenting the construction of the very looping machine itself, is like a filmic version of Robert Morris’ seminal Box with the Sound of its Own Making (1961), whereby the medium seems to meditate on its own origins. Morris’ legacy is also to be found in the projection of Bruce McLean’s little known early film In the Shadow of Your Smile, Bob (1970), where, in a spoken commentary, McLean and a fellow Scot analyze the poses and gestures of his filmed image, in a tongue-incheek Morris-esque mind/body disconnect. The ‘anything goes’ nature of Conceptual art is both satirized and utilized.
Many works here have to do with the activities of everyday life. Amikam Toren’s Black Hole (1997–2006), for instance, in which the artist’s peeling of his daily orange becomes a way to explore the spiral form, and the collection of ten years of dried out, curving orange peels – shoved into a bin bag and placed on the floor – becomes a concentrated elegy about the passing of time and the ongoing, quotidian nature of artistic practice. Likewise, Dean Hughes’ embroidery of the seat of the bus he took every day, subtle to the point of invisibility, points to both the normalcy, repetition and work-like quality of ‘doing’ art, but enhances these qualities so that they themselves become the subject, paradoxically revealing their own potential and quiet beauty (Embroidery Thread on a London Bus Seat, 1993–6).
Amongst the most succinct works are Pierre Bismuth’s Unfolded Origami – Lampion and Unfolded Origami – Tortue (both 2003), a pair of found posters, each showing a tropical island, framed but still bearing the folded traces of their previous incarnations as, respectively, origami lantern and origami turtle. Thoughts about the potential of found material, the creative impulse to transform matter, the intellectual desire to rationalize and object-image relations, gather and dissipate around these light-footed works.
In this multi-generational exhibition, Büchler is not concerned with discovering talents new or old, but rather revealing the simple continuity that the making of art involves, particularly in a time when ‘artist’ seems to rank as a profession alongside other conventional career choices. With a welcome levity, it shows that being an artist is not an escape from everyday life so much as a harnessing of it. As he does in his own often physically unassuming but deeply considered artworks, Büchler allows the works here to demonstrate the artist’s contemplation and probing of the fabric of life. Despite its sometimes tautological appearance, this is not ‘art about art’, but very much ‘art about doing art’.